Write It Down

A few nights ago, I hopped a red-eye home from LAX with a carryon of sweaters and books, toothpaste. I’d gone camping with this crew, although camping is perhaps a reach to write. One morning, I woke to find glitter in my boot.

Whenever I teach journaling classes, or writing classes of any sort, I am forever asked how I find the time. How do you carve out a few minutes to write every single day? Tell me about your schedule, about the mechanics of it all.

But I don’t think that’s the real question we wrestle with, is it? The real question is a far simpler one:

Is it essential?

We find time for the essential, after all. We find time to brush our teeth, to shower, to feed the dogs, to feed ourselves. We find time to go to work, to go to sleep, to go to the grocery for milk.

Some of us find the time for other things we deem essential: yoga, hair appointments, Sunday morning church.

And so, the question isn’t how we find the time.

It is why.

My only answer to this is that to journal, for me, is to breathe. It is to write it all down unmarred by expectation, unfiltered for consumption. It is the most indulgent practice, and also the least, given that each contradiction I meet on the page offers me the opportunity to accept the many contradictions of another.

There is no how.

Sit down at your local coffee shop and type out a blog post. Make notes on the back of your kid’s artwork, grocery lists, appointment reminders, marketing meeting agendas. Draw pictures on a napkin at the sports bar. Write long-winded cursive letters to your future self in a leather-bound journal on a rainy day. Leave yourself voice recordings while sautéing the onions. Call a friend for a walk around the neighborhood and exchange random thoughts about your lives, your perspectives – the truth as you see it today.

Listen, I know you’re busy.

I know you have small children, or aging parents, or needy dogs and grown-up responsibilities and a full-time job and you don’t understand, I’m already late to the dentist.

Write that down, too, if you’d like.

Say what it feels like to be drowning. Feel the shape of those words as they land on the page, or on another ear. Understand that this is your life – your gift.

Allow yourself five minutes to introduce yourself to it.

It will look ugly.

The truth often does. Our mirrors are all a little skewed, a lot cracked. You’ll be tempted to bust out the gorilla glue for repairs, to twist your words into lies that make you sound like less of a jerk at the end of the day. Write those down, too.

Understand that we’re all jerks at the end of the day.

Choose to be one of the honest ones.

So yes, journaling is essential. It is essential to me, and I think likely to you, and the how matters not.

But the why does.

Here’s to the stories we live, and the stories we tell.
May they be one and the same.

(And may we wake to find glitter in our boots.)

  • Hi Erin, two brand new notebooks in my hand. Been SEARCHING for the perfect one: spiral bound, but not too huge of a spiral – gets all bent and wonky in my purse. 7 x 9 size, college ruled lines, sturdy cover, calm corla color. Picked up a navy blue one, too. Just because one must not pass up the PERFECT notebook – especaially when its only $7.

    Big question: what to donwith OLD journals??? Keep? Toss? Hide away? i have ZERO desire to re-read… often too painful. Do i marikondo and rid myself of the uneasy feelings they bring?? Save for the future?? I do, however, keep travel journals.

    Thoughts?? Erin?? Fellow readers??

    • If you don’t feel compelled to keep them, I would recommend a ritual burning or shred them – sometimes you can find free shredding events put on by government or recycling agencies. You don’t want to re-read, but I’m guessing you don’t want someone to dig them out of recycling to read, either! Best of luck, Kelly.

    • Be careful about throwing them away! I thought I had the same line of thinking, but now over a decade later of throwing away old letters and journals, I wish I’d kept them.

    • Love this, Kelly!!!

      You know, I’ve learned a lot from re-reading the old, painful stuff. If yo have the space, I’d keep them, just in case you’d like to re-visit in the future. It’s amazing what we learn about ourselves if we can sit with the uneasy for long enough, you know?

  • Yes, “choose to be one of the honest ones,” if to no one but yourself. I find that I can run far and fast from my truths but all I do is make myself tired because I can never get away from them; it’s how I choose to confront (embrace, love, acknowledge, understand) those truths that will get me where I most want to be. Happy Weekend, Erin!

  • Love this! You’d be such a fabulous journaling teacher. “Understand that we’re all jerks at the end of the day. Choose to be one of the honest ones.” One of the most helpful writing books I’ve read is “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg. It was a great book to start with and learn about writing from the heart, writing from the deepest most raw place in us.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Your timing in writing this and my actually finding it is so perfect. Only 2 weeks ago have I started blogging again and this time it feels different. My kids are a little older and I’m finding that it is essential to carve out this time for myself to write and create. You’re absolutely right, it’s now how, it’s why. After 2 weeks of making time to paint, draw, write, it’s beginning to flow and feel natural and authentic and it’s so freeing and wonderful. It’s like a daily mediation. Thank you for writing this and verifying my feelings about journaling..

  • Erin,
    This is a beautiful post, and I love the association of your writing being essential. These subtle shifts in thinking are game-changers.
    Thank you,

  • I ve been journaling for years … I don t remember when I started, somewhere in my 30 s probably, and I m now just entering my 70 s … Started almost every morning all those years with a cup of tea or coffee, a Bible, my favorite pen and my notebook … I do go back and re read them at times … They are also a diary, a history of my thoughts and prayers in all these seasons of life. They show me the themes of my fears and faith. Sometimes I am convicted at how little I ve grown and changed in some parts of my life … And sometimes I am humbled by the insight and wisdom God faithfully gives me ..I copy verses, poems, quotes that have influenced me as well as thoughts and prayers … I want to capture them so I ll remember … .I have destroyed the early years, but probably still have 15 years worth … I feel the need to keep them so I can benefit again from them, but plan to box them up, sealed, and leave them to my God daughter. I don t care if she reads them and she can shred them or share them … I ll be long gone by then.

    • I love that you’ve been journaling for something like 30 years, Cora! What an amazing gift to yourself.

  • I love this! Especially the line about how we are all jerks at the end the of day but at least lets be an honest one:) So true and so good! I am feeling motivated to be more honest in my journal!

  • Erin, I love this simple message! I think it’s important for everyone to make time for what they aspire. Journaling has been a mechanism I use to vent, articulate my thoughts, and form clear opinions about a subject matter or event. I’m fairly new to journaling, but have found that by writing everyday my language is growing to be more concise and eloquent.

    Thanks for your perspective!

  • Erin I would love to know what type of journal you use and do you have set time for your journaling/writing?
    Thank you
    PS: Chasing Slow is my favorite read in 2017! A much needed timely message for me and one I will carry with me!

    • Oh goodness, thank you Tammy! I actually use my blog as a journal. I write in this space every morning before the littles get up – stream of consciousness style – and I decide later whether or not I want to edit and publish it! :) It’s a rhythm that works great for me, but I know some are tried-and-true pen-and-paper types! :)

  • The part about twisting our words into lies at the end of the day to make us seem like less of a jerk-that was real good stuff. :)

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