Notebook Love: Don’t not write/my only and favorite soapbox/why the biggest reason you aren’t writing is stupid

Well hi, welcome to this Tuesday that’s kind of a Monday and really felt like a Monday.

Today I’m going to talk about what I think is the #1 stumbling block that people have when it comes to personal writing/notebooking/journaling/blogging, whatever you want to call it:  they think they have to catch up.  But hey, guys, you don’t.  And that’s a really really really stupid reason not to write.

If you’re always trying to play catch up, you’re either never going to write because you’ll keep delaying until you can catch up, but since you’ll never have time to “catch-up” to your satisfaction, you’ll get stuck in the eternal cycle of procrastination,  OR, you’ll end up with a really boring, emotionless, watered down version of a record of your life.

Allow me to elaborate.  This problem was first brought to my attention during the 2 months I spent in Guatemala.  I lived in a janky little (really, little)  house with lots (really, lots) of people in quarters close enough for everyone to be all up in everyone else’s business about everything, which included what they did with their free time evening hours.  And since we were participating in a high adventure, high emotion, once in a lifetime thing, you best believe most of us ladies (and those 2 guys) had ourselves some notebooks to document the whole thing.  And almost every day, from at least one of the 5 ladies sharing my bedroom, I’d hear the lament “I’m so behind!”,  accompanied by something along the lines of: “I really really want to write about the devastatingly heart-wrenching experience I had today at the orphanage that makes me cry every time I think about it, BUT I can’t write about that yet because I haven’t written yet about the ridiculous bus ride we took 3 days ago that made me laugh no-lie harder than I ever have ever in my entire life OR the backstory on why my project is kind of failing and how it’s making me feel like a failure.”

So.  When they crashed into this dilema, they’d often do one of two things:  Some would just not write at all out of a paralyzed and overwhelmed awareness of their inability to capture every noteworthy experience and emotion they’ve had and tack it to paper.   The problem with this one is obvious–something is better than nothing and here you end up with nothing!  Others would play catch up.  And the problem with that is one that I think the average notebooker is less likely to see as a problem.  In this example, playing catch up means putting aside the fresh-in-your-mind-and-heart intense emotions and thoughts you are having right then for that day, pushing them aside for the totally different emotions you were feeling before that, or yesterday, or last week, or last month.  You’ll end up with a heartless recapped version: “we went there, we did this, it was amazing, it was fun, I loved it”  Instead of the beautiful details.  What color the sky was, what struck you most about the scene, the direct quote that made you laugh so hard, what the place smelled like, what you ordered for lunch.  You miss capturing what things feel like in the moment, when you haven’t seen the outcome or gotten over your euphoria, or grief, or embarrassment, anger, stress, or contentedness–those feeling that are so all-encompassing when they happen that you feel as if you will always feel this way.  So happy, optimistic and alive that nothing will ever get you down–or so dejected and depressed that you can’t see any way out of it.

Ok, I’m getting a little carried away and that might be extreme, but if you want to write when you are feeling something strongly–that’s when you should write it.  If you go back and write something different, by the time you get to where you are, you’ll have dampened it and taken the umph out of it.

My advice to you is not to get hung up on the catching up.  Your notebook will be more interesting.  It will be more real, more you, and really evoke the memories it was meant to and mean something to you.  There is no such rule that you need to write in chronological order.  Allow yourself to doodle, dabble, and dribble out whatever wants to come out.  If something you skipped is really that important to you, you will make the time to go back and record it later.  Go ahead and rant about the woes of nursing that are making you crazy right now even though you haven’t gotten around to penning a novel about the beautiful experience that was giving birth.  There’s no reason not to write about how good it feels to forgive and make up with your boyfriend just because you haven’t told the whole backstory on how you got together, or what your fight was even about in the first place.  Even though it seems silly and trivial to blog or write about how shocked Downtown Abbey just rendered you (man, the internet really is going nutso over that one, I am very much out of the loop.  Haven’t watched a single minute of the show)  when you haven’t even recorded anything about your wedding, your dog dying, your trip to Thailand, or your epic-beyond-epic birthday party–  The fact is, most moments of our life are composed of the small things, so why put recording them on hold for the few and far between big things?

I give you permission.  Just skip it all and vent about Downtown Abbey already.

This is the stuff of life.

(My guatemala notebook)

guate notebook

(a little gem I found while l photographing my Guatemala notebook that you can read if you have the patience/desire to decipher it:)

guate notebook 2

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2 thoughts on “Notebook Love: Don’t not write/my only and favorite soapbox/why the biggest reason you aren’t writing is stupid

  1. Anne says:

    Oh my goodness Dana. This is perfect for me. I love you! I have had to catch up on so much in my journaling and I keep on putting it off. But I should just start with today and then if I feel any memories from all the days that are fresh in my mind I can write them down. Thank you for helping me! Even though you are my sister-in-law. I consider you my sister. Once again I love you beautiful lady! Give the little lady a kiss from me. 🙂

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