This is a legacy post from a blog I wrote in 2018 about language, storytelling, and the shape of things. Delivered here straight from the archives, please enjoy the following issue of The Quiet Post.
The first thing is — keep a record.
Which is just another, better way of saying journal. This will tell you where you’ve been and where to go. It’s your scrapbook and logbook. Gather quotes and movie tickets and to do lists. Collect dry leaves and stickers. Print interesting pictures. Copy facts. Take notes.
I’ve been using a Leuchtturm1917 for a couple years, but this year decided to try out the Hobonichi Techo, which offers one page per day to fill with whatever. I like the format, and the idea of crafting a single page to represent my day, but next year I’ll probably switch back to Leuchtturm, and its wide, open pages.
The online world is filled with beautiful bullet journals. They can be fun to admire. Don’t worry about making it beautiful. Make it ugly.
The second is — take a walk.
“Demons hate fresh air,” says Linn Ullmann. This is true.
Take endless walks. To nowhere in particular. Every time I am stuck, walking dislodges something interesting. Every time I am tangled, walking works the knots free. It is one of the only ways I know to get the pieces—of ideas, of life—to shift into place.
The poet Mary Oliver likes to hide pencils in trees, so that during her walks she will always be able to write down a thought when it comes.
Long, ambling walks generate slowness, which generates stillness, which—
Which tees up the third thing — be bored.
I’m not going to tell you to meditate. Or breathe. You can do those things if you want, and I sometimes do, but lying just behind them is another skill worthy of practice.
Which is to just stop.
And stare out the window. Stare at the ceiling. For ten minutes. For up to an hour or more. What are you doing? You’re thinking. You’re boring.
Every problem I have ever solved, everything I have ever written—for The Quiet Post, yes, and everything else—came only from behind extended periods of boredom. A full third of my work time is just sitting and staring into the middle-distance.
Structure your life around interminable mornings, slow afternoons, and uneventful evenings. Carve out space to think.
Which might mean you need to — four — say no.
I used to find saying no to things stressful, almost as stressful as just doing the things themselves. But there is joy in missing out. In creating intentional free time. Not everything is a big deal. Find the joy in saying no.
And in the fifth — saying yes.
Get out of the house. Get out of your head. Get out of your own way. Your friends and family are somewhere. Go spend time with them, already. Sheesh.
The sixth — read a book.
Or watch a movie. Or play a video game. Or listen to a podcast. Any of them are fine. The point is just this: invest in something that takes some time. Live your life in large, round chunks. Mind the transitions. Check in with social media just as much as keeps you healthy.
And then keep chipping away at the big things. The tomes to pore over. The music to sort into playlists. The trails to bike. The levels to beat. Measure time by hours, if you can. There will be things you miss out on, yes, but they’re not important. They’re only minutes.
And if all else fails, understand this — the seventh — you don’t need to feel better.
The goal in life is not to feel good all the time.
As I was writing this, I watched Hank Green’s video on finding respite in today’s news cycle. Why is it important and how do we find it? I recommend it as an addendum to today’s post.
And then, finish things off with Bill Wurtz’s latest masterpiece, which is basically guaranteed to make your day a little brighter.