Writing small

an old-fashioned trip diary

This post is #10 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to thinking that writing has to be big or important or perfect.

Or just long. I mean, seriously, have you read this blog?

But if there is one thing that Twitter has re-taught me, it’s that small can be good: in fact, I consciously used it to retrain myself to fashion pithier sentences, and while I use it less now, it certainly helped. Gretchen Rubin keeps a one-sentence daily journal; she finds it a simple way to stay in touch with the things in her life that would otherwise fly away, never to be thought of again.

My grandmother, who would never in a million years have called herself a writer, wrote some of my favorite things. Usually, they were little add-ons to my grandfather’s lengthy letters, he had no problem calling himself a writer. Just a sentence or two, often about something mundane, but always full of love and her own goofy, gentle character. Of the many artifacts they left behind, one of my all-time favorites is this fascinating travel journal she kept during the last years of their heavy, international travel, in the 1950s and early 1960s. My grampa used to needle her about recording the crazy minutiae she captured, prices and times and “steak dinners.” But I love them because they are real, and in her hand, and as they occurred to her in those moments. These are the things she wanted to record and keep.

If you call yourself a writer, it is always wise to carry a little notebook around in which to, well, note things. I favor Field Notes these days. (Not a paid advertisement! Just a fangirl “howdy!”)

But even if you do not, it might not be a bad idea to carry something around to note things which occur to you, or to record things that are happening, like steak dinners, and where you took them, and that you rested, bathed and dressed just beforehand. You of the Future might be fascinated by the very details You of Right Now take for granted.



  1. I have been taking notes on my phone for the last year or so, and it works well. Speaking of “the future you”, I just revisited a collection of videos I made back in 2006 for one of my now defunct videoblogging sites. They’ve been interesting to watch (for me anyway) and it’s inspired me to start documenting life again.

    p.s. I’ve been re-posting them on my Google+ account just for fun;)

  2. “I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to thinking that writing has to be big or important or perfect.”

    Once again, you’ve expressed the very thing I’m grappling with…whew, this “finally getting it” stuff is exhausting. xo

  3. House cleaning and found a stack of 3 or 4 unfinished journals, a common present gifted my way. Love the one-sentence Gretchen Rubin inspiration, and I know what I can write for Friday! (Regardless of whatever wonders come my way.)

  4. Journals and notebooks are so important. Whether they’re digital or analog, we need a way to capture questions, observations and (gasp!) especially the inspirational bits and pieces that float thru one’s brain from time to time. According to historians, Leonardo da Vinci was never without his notebook, and left behind over 300 journals filled with his musings, doodles and serious thoughts. And look what he accomplished! I’ve got a fetish for notebooks myself but find I use my digital stuff more. The sad part is, will those digital files be around for historians of the future to find?

  5. Aaah. To just hand write without judgment or concern for grammar, without thinking what others would think if they read it. I’ve journalled (is that really a word?) since 1990. My journals hold what’s left of the thirty or forty-year old me. Yikes, it’s both scary and refreshing to see how I have grown, not in my writing, but as a person. And, where are the handwritten letters? I miss them. :=]

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