“Nothing Of Importance Happened Today,” Said King George III Of England’s Diary Entry, July 4, 1776

May 18, 2010

You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own. It’s just a matter of paying attention to the miracle.
• Paulo Coelho

When I was teaching high school, I sometimes felt overwhelmed by everything I needed to do. I still do. The work of teaching never seems to be done. There’s either doing the work or getting ready to do the work or finishing up the work. Taking time to reflect on what’s happening, to make plans for the future, and to capture ideas I don’t want to lose sometimes seems impossible, even for someone who loves to write.

Regular journaling seemed like too much to commit to, so I promised myself that I would always write–directly on my lesson plans at the end of the day—at least one significant sentence about my teaching day. Those sentences were invaluable for the next year’s planning.

I’ve used this technique in multiple ways with students, using a mix of teacher- and student-written prompts and free writing. Students learned to write very long, yet still coherent, sentences by the end of the year. Targeting the sentences can provide a useful document at the end of a year: 180 sentences, for example, about making art or about plans for the future or about goals or whatever it is that you’d like to capture.

Your sentences will be better if you pay attention to your life. This sounds easier than it actually is. How many times, for example, have you driven from here to there and realized that you didn’t notice anything along the way? How many times have friends or partners or children or colleagues said something and you’ve nodded and heard nothing? How many times have you read something and realized that you had no idea what you’d just read?

Something of importance happens every day, but you have to be watching for it.

Start a one-sentence-a-day Collectory  journal about your life that captures something daily that you’d like to remember. Be sure to date your entries. If it’s a really rich and active day, you’ll also get a chance to use semi-colons and colons!

For all of us, the key is to pay close attention to which activities make us feel most alive and in love with life—and then try to spend as much time as possible engaged in these activities.
• Nathaniel Branden

If someone said, “Write a sentence about your life,” I’d write, “I want to go outside and play.”
• Jenna Elfman,
Us Magazine, March 1999


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