A good resolution for 2020 and beyond would be to consistently put on paper what’s in our heads. It helps us clarify and enhance thoughts in so many ways.
Making lists, taking studious notes, developing plans, reviewing progress, creating stories and poetry, communicating professionally, jotting down questions for subsequent inquiry, preserving history, journaling and enhancing relationships, all require writing. And writing stimulates thinking.
Writing to-do lists is one way to organize life. Responding to expressions of academic, athletic and social stress by his three children – ages 11, 13 and 16 – my son, Stephen, told each of them to draw a big circle and fill it with their written list of tasks and perceived concerns. Then he helped them sort the issues and list them below the circle in order of importance. As they thought it through, they realized that some of their problems were simply imagined. These written lists were shortened by a good measure, and they were relieved.
“I’ve learned that if I set aside time to engage in exercise, pause and meditate or pray, and study something profound every day, my to-do list becomes clearly organized and culled of weeds,” Stephen said. “As I make those three things the paramount items on my list, life takes on a magical quality.”
Note-taking and journaling are additional means of enrichment. My friend and community leader, Ryan Wilcox, was recently hospitalized following a very serious accident. He had only essential possessions in his recovery room. I observed that perhaps the most precious item by his bedside was his journal. He showed me some of its remarkable contents and told me the importance of note-taking and journaling was reaffirmed last summer during a graduate course where the professor banned laptops, mobile phones and other electronic devices. The instructor required the students to write their notes and extended thoughts in their journals. Ryan said he’d currently been using his journal to review some of his previous inspirational entries from that class and elsewhere also to record his thoughts and expressions relating to his recent debilitating but spiritual experience.
Ogden’s Diane Malan has been keeping a daily journal for the past 60-plus years. It has been very consistent since the birth of her first child. On Christmas day this past week, she presented a complete copy of her written gems to each of her seven children.
Since the beginning of their weekly family home evenings years ago, our neighbors, David and Jean Hart, have kept a log of minutes filled with cherished memories. Their children, now adults, are practicing the same with their families and encouraging journal writing as well.
State representative Steve Waldrip fills his journal with introspection, which he often converts to elegant prose and poetry. He carries a notebook with him so when profound thoughts occur, he can write them down.
Renowned author and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, filled over 250 volumes of notebooks with his written thoughts over the years. Virtually all of his revered writing came from mining his notes which he recorded while walking in the woods, listening to good music, listening to lectures or engaging in meaningful conversation.
Professionally, constant practice and review of writing can help in one’s vocation. My friend Chip Morgan, principal technology engineer at Norfolk Southern Railway, told me the length of his past memos sometimes caused colleagues to refer to them as “Norfolk novels.” He worked hard at making every word fight for its existence. He is currently recognized by a partner’s note on his occupational profile as “the brightest information technology professional I have ever worked with.”
People in self-improvement and addiction recovery circles have learned those who work the program by writing out their thoughts, plans and commitments tend to be more successful than others. Their common comment is, “It’s possible to understand where we are and experience personal growth in ways that speaking just can’t match.”
As a final note, we must not forget the value of a hand-written personal note to those we love and those for whom we deeply care. May cursive writing live forever.
As this new decade begins, it’s a good time for us to resolve to write and think more professionally, more respectfully and more purposefully.