Getting past the overwhelm

It’s been a busy several months for me. Two new jobs, the second in a different state, my father’s death, a trip to Arizona, another to Disney, and 10,000+ vehicle miles of commuting. 

So I open my journal to write an entry, and I look at the last entry date – over a week prior, maybe longer – and realize how much stuff has happened since then. I’ve traveled, worked a week in a new job, lived in a room far from home. Not to mention all the feelings about a what is going on. It could fill pages! 

I always imagine that my journal entries will be this awesome prose mixed with sketches, and when I think of how much writing I need to do to catch up it’s hard to keep going. 

It threatens to overwhelm. 

To get past the overwhelm, I cheat. I skip the prose. I accept that there will be no sketches. I write bullets:

  • Went to Arizona
  • Swimming at Grasshopper point

  • Saw the Grand Canyon

  • Swam a lot

Then I may add some detail or notes on something in particular, and then I move on. 

Remember the point of doing something is to enjoy doing the something – the writing can come later, and it doesn’t need always need to be awesome. 

Now, the folks who are fond of Bullet Journaling will say that’s the way it should be done all the time. When I first saw that method I thought it a bit dry, but I see the value now. The bullets do bring back memories. But it’s not what I’d want to fill a book with. 

4 thoughts on “Getting past the overwhelm

  1. That writing something is better than writing nothing is an idea I struggle with sometimes as well, feeling that I should be filling the page each day.

    I don’t know whether you ever came across this “Twitter by Post” experiment but its ideas about brevity chime a little with your bullet point idea.

    ” Back when people wrote letters, they didn’t have to be the long catch-ups that people tend to write today. We write long letters now because we hardly write letters at all, so we feel obliged to make them something special, to pad them out with lots of news. This makes them long and tedious to write, which means we’re disinclined to write letters; so we don’t write any at all, and post on Facebook instead.

    But if you get the chance to look at some old letters—properly old, from the first half of the 20th century, or older—you’ll see that they weren’t always long screeds. In fact they were often kept short and to the point.”

    It changed the way I thought about writing letters, reasoning that people would probably rather receive a short-ish letter or letters from me, than hear, much later, about the long letter I’d intended to write but never found time for 🙂

    I can see your post as a useful reminder a similar idea in the context of my diary!


    1. Hi John – Nice to hear from you! The Twitter by Post concept looks like fun. It’s also an excellent opportunity to acquire some new and specialized stationery 😉

      Long letters are a problem for me as well. Especially if they span more than one day (of writing, not content) as I put the thing down, then pick it up and mess up where I was going with it. Also the problem of remembering what has been sent in the past. I’m sure there’s a few pen pals who put me in the category of old men who repeat their stories.

      Going to have to try that Twitter by Post idea though. Short, quick, easy…


  2. Good to have you back. Congratulations on the jobs. Too bad it doesn’t say “swam the Colorado in the Grand Canyon.” 🙂
    I like the tip to ease the burden of “catching up.” But I’ve been using the Bullet Journal system for about two years now (I was an early adopter) but I don’t actually like it for journaling. In fact I wonder if “journal” is appropriate for what it does. For me it works more like a checklist of “things to do” not as a record of “things done.” I find mixing and matching the two to be problematic, even confusing. I mainly use the Bullet Journal for work-related activities.


    1. Hi Paul – I wish I could say I’m fully back, but I’m not sure yet. The new job is still taking a ton of bandwidth, but I think once I get more established in the new city I will have time to focus on RT again.

      I will be going back to the Grand Canyon again. With backpacking gear. Might have to wait until one of my daughters is old enough, but that is fantastic country. Really didn’t get enough time there.

      Yes, bullets alone are cold, not very entertaining, and potentially useless to other folks. I do it only when I feel I’ve got to get a list of stuff down or it will be forgotten. I usually end up fleshing out some of the items later but not always. Using my journal for to-dos was always an attractive idea for me, but I’ve never gotten it to work very well. Especially once I moved to larger notebooks. But that everything in one book idea…alas, I never was one of the Filo fax organizer types.


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