A couple of years ago, I shared my 10 Tips for Keeping a Journal, and today I want to elaborate on Tip #3: Think Small.
As I said in my previous post, “If you wait until you have ‘good stuff’ to write about, your journal may stay closed for months. The truth is, there’s good stuff happening all around us almost every day. Consider this—who’s this journal for? You, right? What will YOU want to look back on in ten years? What you’ll crave are the little things. The tiny little slices of life that you’ve forgotten about. So your job when journaling is to master the mundane.”
It’s true. I’ve been rereading some of my old journals (a favorite summer habit) and want to scream at my college-age self, “Stop babbling about boy troubles, and tell me what’s in your pockets!” (Somewhere, in another universe, college-age me just had a very strange dream.) Really though, there are plenty of pages about my feelings (which are important, yes) but not enough about my world. When I look back on that time, I’m not interested in reliving all my relationship angst. I’d much rather see my former surroundings—where I spent my Thursday afternoons and which t-shirt was my favorite and what I ate for breakfast. Even after college, I still sometimes went through phases of vague melancholy or (worse) vague bliss where I described my deep feelings of unease or contentment without ever really pinpointing where they came from. That’s why I’m thrilled when I stumble upon entries like this one from February 18, 2007:
I am sitting in my purple chair wearing the new jeans I got at Buffalo Exchange tonight (that I love) with the green sweater that I rescued from the Goodwill bag (that I now really like) and the flip flops from Kelley’s wedding and a black head band wrap. I look totally funky stylin’ (in my not so fashionable opinion).
Note #1: Sweater and flip flops in Austin in February sounds about right.
Note #2: I am such a hoarder of clothes. I used to be SO BAD about putting things in a bag to take to Goodwill and then “rescuing” them a couple of days later, only to wear them once and then send them back to my closet for another year. I’ve learned my lesson. Now I take the bag to Goodwill immediately. Usually.
Note #3: I feel like I was quoting a friend when I used the phrase “funky stylin'” but I don’t remember who. Also, I hope I was being sarcastic.
Or this one from January 31, 2011:
I am sitting in my backyard writing by the light of the campfire I just made for myself (with the help of a firestarter log from HEB). My plan is to sit here and write in my journal and drink some High Life and read Lolita and enjoy the evening for as long as I like, no matter the time. I hear something barking off in the distance– maybe a coyote. Oh, and now I hear the muted but unmistakable caterwauling of Gink…
Note #1: High Life? Seriously? My guess is someone left them at my house.
Note #2: High Life and Lolita is a classy combination.
Note #3: I just Googled January 31, 2011, and it was a Monday, so I was enjoying this late-night campfire on a school night. How scandalous!
Note #4: You have no idea how loud my cat’s caterwauling can be. Someday, when he’s gone, this journal entry will remind me of the crazy sounds he used to make, and it will make me smile.
Those are the kinds of journal entries I can sink my nostalgic teeth into.
So if you’re keeping a journal, and you’re worried that nothing you write is exciting enough, fret not. Some of the most mundane tidbits today may be the lines that give you the biggest smiles ten years from now.
When in doubt, follow these simple instructions:
Download a PDF of this diagram here:
HOW TO WRITE A JOURNAL ENTRY.
Here’s an entry I wrote based on this format, without taking any of the optional tangents:
See? Until the robot swung the baseball bat and uncovered the hidden scorpion, there was nothing earth-shattering about this entry, but someday I’ll be glad I mentioned how Gabby used to insist on laying in my lap, and I’ll probably laugh about how excited I was over my first Roomba when I see what the robots of the future can do.
So give it a try. Grab a favorite pen and find a comfy spot and write something that future you will enjoy reading. Most importantly, have fun.
One last thing: Don’t ever feel like you have to fill up a whole page. Even short entries can have a lasting effect.
Terrible handwriting aside, that’s quite a nice little nugget. 🙂
8 thoughts on “How to Write a Journal Entry When You Have “Nothing” to Write About”
I think you just kick-started my journalling habit.
Brilliant post – thank you, Carie!
I’m so glad this post resonated with you! 🙂 Best of luck with that journal!
“Stop babbling about boy troubles, and tell me what’s in your pockets!” You crack me up, lady! This is really wonderful. I’m not a big journaler, so I’ve never really thought about it being for future me instead of present me. I’ve always thought of it as a stress release which involves pouring vague emotions out vs. what you’re doing here. Maybe that’s why I don’t do it anymore. I like your way much better. And I LOVE your infographic!
Thank you! The infographic was fun to make. 🙂 Maybe you should dust off an old journal and give it another try!
Okay, I totally do the same thing with “giveaway” clothes. Also, I’m laughing pretty hard at you drinking High Life, right now. I accept your excuse that it was probably left at your house. Thanks for the great journaling advice! It just inspired me for my next blog post. I kind of treat my blog like a journal, since I don’t keep a journal just for myself, but I always want to make it interesting and relevant for readers. And even though I thought I had “nothing to write about”, I rifled around a bit, and struck gold.
P.S. Does the Roomba really work? *hopeful anime eyes*
I’m so happy this inspired a blog post! Can’t wait to read it! 🙂 Yes, the Roomba works. It was expensive and it’s not perfect, but it has vastly improved my quality of life living in a house with 4 pets.
I want to say Thank you! I have been looking for a way to add better content to my journal writing process. I have been writing in a journal since I was 9. Every time I read them they always seem useless and whiny. I had vowed to do quality entries vs quantity entries, but left days unentered as there was nothing for me to add. Now with your prompts, I will have something better to enter!
That makes me so happy!! Thanks for sharing. 🙂 And best of luck with your journaling.