Ways to help build writing back into your day
In another life, I was studying English and Creative Writing and writing was a part of every single day. My first graduate role also led to daily writing. Now that I’m a full-time designer / entrepreneur / confused creator, I have to be inventive about introducing opportunities to keep writing each day. It’s a valuable skill that you will inevitably have to call upon at some point in your life. Why wait until you’re in a complete state of panic before a written document deadline? If you follow even a few of these suggestions, you’ll soon have a busy and varied journaling routine.
Extended To Do List
Spoiler alert - I’m going to suggest you finish up the day by writing your To Do list before bed. When you wake up and you’re enjoying a cup of coffee with breakfast, or sat at your desk before work, skip the social media and extend your pre-made To Do list. Extending your To Do list is more about writing additional context around each ‘To Do’ than creating any addition ‘To Do’ items. This will not only get you writing first thing in the morning but it will also help you to prioritise the important elements of your day and to let go of the smaller concerns.
I recently started having frequent dreams every night in a way I haven’t experienced since I was a child. Even if you don’t remember your dreams very often, it will make for a more interesting journal entry when you do. It’s also more likely to help you remember dreams in general so try and grab a pencil first thing and scribble a few words about your dreams. Don’t forget to include daydreams from long bus rides or boring commutes - we all have them.
Document News Highlights
If you read interesting news in the morning, whether it’s a friend’s announcement or a global noteworthy incident, make a note of it in your journal and add a few lines of your own about what happened and how you feel about it. These entries add depth and context over the years and they help you to get started because you’re not doing the heavy lifting of coming up with a subject.
Lunch and Afternoon
When I was a university student, I discovered micro fiction and practiced writing these snappy, micro stories for my creative writing assignments. The good thing about micro fiction is that it can start with anything at all. Try looking up from your desk, out a window, at a colleague, over a till, around a corner until you spot someone or something interesting. That can be the starting point of your story. Try to keep it to three or four lines if you can and remember to consider a beginning, middle and end structure to help your story fill out. It’s a really good habit to challenge yourself with this concise, creative writing and it will add whimsy and creativity to your journal.
Ask a friend to pick a random word from the dictionary - keep a dictionary app on your phone for these moments - and then attempt to write your own personal definition of the word in your journal. You’d be surprised how difficult it is to explain something we all intuitively know from experience. Like, a table or a cup or revolution or multiplication. It’s an excellent challenge for your brain, your writing and your articulation. It also adds quirky randomness into your journal.
Similarly, if you can then whiz through a dictionary and find a word that you aren’t familiar with, this can be the partner task to your ‘Personal Definition’. Once you’ve understood the word, potentially with a minute of further googling, try to define it in one or two lines in your journal. This helps you to build detailed knowledge, improved vocabulary and unpredictable variety into your writing.
Blog Post Outlines
By now, you’ve done a lot more writing in your journal than you would normally do and the evening will hopefully offer a little more time for some detailed writing. Use your journal to flesh out the outline for a blog post. Regardless of whether you already have a blog or not, you’ll find this helpful to have. Planning writing is often the easiest way to unlock longer, more unified subjects that you are too intimidated to try. Use bullets and sub-topics with a line or two about what you should cover in each section. If you’re stuck for an idea, pick one of the subjects from above - your news highlight, your micro-fiction inspiration, your Personal Definition or your Discovery Diary. Starting to post these articles, when you’re feeling ready to flesh them out, is as easy as signing up for a free Medium account and letting your new blog flourish.
Pen Pal Letters
When I left university, I had a pretty good habit of writing letters and postcard to various people and I still have their replies stored away. I don’t make a habit of hoarding but there is something really precious about seeing your friend’s handwriting in little pockets of history, stored inside an envelope. You can glue the envelopes and their cargo into your journal and this will help you to remember to write a reply. You can always use your journal to write out a quick draft of thoughts, if your communication is starting to get complicated! My good habits have since slipped away but as I am planning a big, international move in the coming year, I am keen to get back on the horse and embrace the excitement or receiving physical letters again.
To Do List
The first thing I suggested was to use the morning to write additional notes of context around your To Do list items. For that to work, you need to spend five minutes before bed writing your To Do list in the first place. With an ongoing increase in anxiety, depression and general lifestyle pressure in society, this is a good habit to establish for your mental health. A To Do list shouldn’t just be your literal ‘tasks that you need to do’ but a list of concerns, worries or anything you might be putting off or not feel in control of. It is said that writing these things down before bed will help you get a better nights sleep or to avoid waking up with anxious worrying. However, if this is something you suffer from on a regular basis, please remember to speak to a doctor and get some professional support with your sleep.
All the things
If you wanted, you can combine all of the above and create your own personalised bullet journal. The concept of journaling can often seem intimidating when you scroll through beautiful images of immaculately handwritten diaries. I think that the pressure of putting down something with the view of it being visually attractive can sometimes get in the way of just getting started with diary entries. The other issue we often encounter is knowing what to write about and for how long. My younger self would start a diary habit with a daily documentation of every act and thought I had that day, only to wear myself out and quit a couple of weeks in. If you pick up a new notebook and start testing some of the suggestions I’ve listed, you will naturally start to populate a varied and unique journal, and will be motivated to keep it going with short bursts of personalised writing.