"I'm not writing it down to remember it later, I'm writing it down to remember it now."
When I purchased a set of Field Notes for my boyfriend's Christmas gift, I received a gift myself: the above quote nestled in the bottom of the confirmation email. (It is also, I just noticed, splashed bolding across the company's website, which makes me question if I might miss the big things but notice the little ones...) Reading this quote got me thinking about writing, memory, and why we keep track of what we do. Even those who are not writers often keep track of their lives, even if it is in a small way, jotting down bits and pieces about their day in a planner or diary or toiling away at an online journal or blog. Many of us track our lives in some form of written word. I always thought this was done so we could look back on these words one day and reminisce about what was. However, I've kept a diary/journal since I was about nine, and I can count on one hand the number of times I've actually looked back at the words I've written.
Recognizing this has made me realize that writing "it" (a memory, a meeting, a moving moment) down is not necessarily about preserving what is so that it can be reflected on as what was. Instead, writing it down is often about keeping us present, in the moment, and focused on what's happening in the now. It's a great way to collect your thoughts, embrace a future memory, or just settle your mind. You might be thinking, "Sure, that sounds great, but I'm not a writer." But that's the beauty of it! You don't have to be a writer to write something down. There's no right or wrong, no spell check, no grammar or fact checker. It's just you and your words. Just you experiencing the moment.
If you're not already in the habit of writing things down, it might be a difficult practice to adopt at first. Here are some ideas I've come up with to use writing (even just a note or sentence) in a present-moment practice that will help you stay focused on the now.
7 Ways Putting It in Writing Can Keep You Present
1. Keep a one-sentence journal. Once a day -- either right when you wake or right when you're about to end your day -- write down a sentence about your day. It could be about how you feel, what you did, what the weather was. It can be about you, about other people, about the past or future. Getting into the habit of writing something down every day -- even just a sentence -- will help you to say more present. Here are some resources if you're looking to use a pre-made journal: Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal or One Line a Day.
2. Start writing my-kus. I first read about the concept of a "myku" in Ashley Davis Bush's Shortcuts to Inner Peace. What's a myku? It's a haiku (you know, the poem) but without the syllabic rules I've always been a fan of poetry (and even dabbled it in a bit myself), and this seemed like a great and easy way to think about the moment in a quick, yet beautiful, way. Commit to writing one of these a day (or week) and you'll find yourself being more attentive to the world around you.
3. Write a description. When you're posting a photo online, emailing a photo to a friend, or sharing an image on Twitter / Instagram / Tumblr / etc., take a moment to write out a description of that image. It doesn't have to be wordy -- a quick line of text will do -- but it should provide you with an opportunity to stop and think about what it is you're looking at. If you start this practice, you'll teach yourself not just to snap and send, but to really notice what it is you're photographing or looking at.
4. Create a quote book.Online or on paper start a book that contains your favorite quotes -- both from well-known sources and from those you know. You can even put some of your own words of wisdom in there! Not only will doing this help to inspire you (and potentially create some future laughs when you look back on it years later), but it will also help you be more in tune with what you (and others) are saying. Words come and go so quickly that sometimes we really forget to listen, and keeping track of quotes will help you say more tuned in to what is being said.
5. Send a letter. When was the last time you emailed or wrote someone just to say or tell him or her how you felt. Too often the only time we write to others is when we want to ask for something. Instead of waiting until you need something to get in touch, why not sit down and write and letter or email as soon as you think of someone? Even if the only words you write are "thinking of you," you'll be taking the moment of thinking of someone one step further than if you had simply thought and not acted. Loved ones and friends will be happy to hear from you and you'll be keeping that person in your mind just a little bit longer with every word you write.
6. Make a list. A list might sound like a boring thing to keep you in the moment, but that all depends on what the list is. What if you wrote a list of things you loved? What about a list of things you're grateful for? Or a list of all the things that made you smile today? Next time you're writing a list for the grocery store (or Target in my case!), take a few extra minutes to write a list that inspires you, documenting things that bring you happiness. Writing these things down will bring you a little burst of happiness.
7. Draft a story. Okay, this one might not be for everyone. If you're really not a big fan of writing, crafting a story might sound like a daunting task -- but I still encourage you to give it a try. This doesn't have to be a best-seller -- just a little synopsis of something you experienced. If you're having trouble getting started, begin with your five sense. What did you hear? See? Touch? Taste? Smell? Thinking about these details and writing them down will help you to be more aware of them on a daily basis.
These ideas are just a start. I'm sure there are many other ideas for how writing can keep you present -- even for those who wouldn't consider themselves writers. Any ideas on how to stay in the moment through writing? What other writing-related things can you do to stay present every day?