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One Line a Day

By Catherine Pavia

This January, determined to regain some of the journal-writing prowess of my younger days, I bought a One-Line-a-Day Memory Book. “I can manage one line a day. Piece of cake,” I told myself as I clicked on the “One-click-to-buy” Amazon button. Well, we are now 34 days into 2012 and I have managed only one line in the memory book.

It’s not the time investment that’s stopping me. One line is a piece of cake to write. Until it’s the line that’s supposed to summarize all of my feeling, thoughts, and actions of a day. How do I give a day justice in just one line?

Plenty of nights I look at that blue book sitting there on my nightstand next to my alarm clock, all shiny in its newness, and try to compose an entry in my mind. Take last Sunday, for example. Do I write about the mix of different emotions that accompanied getting sustained in my new calling on Sunday? Or do I write about dancing around the kitchen with my husband and kids after dinner? Or maybe I write about how, at bedtime, as I was singing a song to my 2-year-old, he turned to me with his overly puckered lips and smacked continual kisses on my cheek until the song was over? Which memory trumps the others for the one-line-a-day? Or take last Wednesday (by arning at dhead inc). Can I write, “Busy with the same old, same old”? Because to actually record that the “same old, same old” means doing 7 loads of laundry, fixing 3 meals and countless snacks, cleaning up those snacks, sweeping the floor a bajillion times because I can’t stand to feel goldfish and Cheerios crunch under my bare feet, taking 8-year-old to basketball, reminding both older kids to practice their piano, helping 8-year-old study for his comprehension test, harping on 6-year-old to pick up her 4 pairs of shoes I keep tripping on before I pick them up and she has to pay me her allowance to get them back, and cleaning up the entire contents of the apple juice the 2-year-old spilled all over the floor, won’t all fit on that one little line.

The truth is, I’m not cut out for one-line-a-day conciseness. My husband says he knows this. When he calls to ask about my day, I can’t give a one line answer. But the memory book has helped me remember why it is that I can’t. (Other than I’m just not a concise person—no tweeting in my future!) It’s helped me remember that, most days, there are more thankful, memorable details and moments than I would have thought, and that what I do every day is valuable and worthy of mention.

So what about you? How do you record your memories? Do you even feel the need to? What works or doesn’t work for you? What would you do in a one-line-a-day journal—summarize your day, choose one detail to record—one feeling or one event? Try it now, if you’d like: write your one-line-a-day for your day so far!
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About Catherine Pavia

(Prose Board) has worked as a cherry sorter, file girl, piano teacher, writer, editor, and college professor. She currently works full-time as the art director, events planner, chauffeur, and referee for her four children. She spends a good deal of her time running—be it down the supermarket aisle after an escaped child, around the living room in a heated game of flag football, or on early-morning runs/therapy sessions with her neighborhood friends. She earned her BA and MA in English from BYU and her PhD in English from UMass Amherst.

12 thoughts on “One Line a Day”

  1. I too, can NOT do a line a day, but I have been trying to write a memory or my thoughts of the day every day. I do it when I pull my car into the garage after work, before I head upstairs to start the daily chores. Yes, sometimes the comment is little more than "same stuff, different day" but it's still worth it.

  2. I have two books that sit on my nightstand. One is my journal. The other is my little red "commonplace" book. Each night, I record all of my experiences/thoughts/feelings from the day in my journal. Then, in the commonplace book, I record a small picture of today's weather (i.e. a small sun, or cloud, or cloud with rain drops . . . ) and a couple words for something that happened that day. Some days it is very hard to choose what to write, but I try to select the most abnormal thing of that day, the thing that would be most likely to spark a memory from the day when I read it years from now. And I can do that, knowing that I have the full day recorded in my regular journal.

  3. No. I'm probably not a one line a day person either–or else I would write one REALLY long run-on sentence! (I currently have 30 full length written journals, to say nothing of my email journals.) Last night I had a lot to write about, so I left extra time. Then when I got into bed and turned out the light, the thoughts kept coming, flashes of inspiration that I NEEDED to record (or they'd be gone) so I kept flipping the light on to jot the ideas down. Finally (after doing this three or four times) I prayed that the ideas would stop coming (until the morning) so I could go to sleep (and let my poor husband get some sleep too.) It worked. I quit thinking of fabulous stuff and I was able to go to sleep.

  4. i don't because, like you, there is so much to say and by the end of the day i'm tired and don't feel i can take the time. i'm sad about that. my life in written form is getting away from me. i have seven kids and eight grandkids and as i think about growing older the one wish i have is that i'll be known by all of them – my posterity. how will they know me if i don't write? can we ever spend enough time with our loved ones to truly be known? i say "someday i'll have the time to write it all down." but someday i won't remember the sweet moments, the tender thoughts and feelings. i'm afraid that i won't remember the lessons… really need to find a way to do it now.

    thank you for the nudge!

  5. Brooke, What a great system!

    Ana, It's been a while since I had a night when the ideas wouldn't stop coming. Right now (when I end the day exhausted) I think that would both thrill me and annoy me 🙂

    Coni, I love your questions, especially the "can we ever spend enough time with our loved ones to truly be known?" That one in particular gives me additional impetus to write.

  6. I've kept a blog since 2005. I've been more or less consistent at different times of my life. Recently I've started a "three things a day" deal where I write about 3 things that happened that day or that I've thought about that day. I couldn't narrow it down to 1, and detailing the whole day takes too long and is too boring. But I can choose 3 things to write about. Sometimes it is 3 sentences, sometimes 3 paragraphs. Sometimes I write about 4 things! I've been pretty consistent with the "3 things" so far. It's a good solution for me.

  7. Catherine: I like your list of questions, asking what makes a good memory. There is no easy answer for sure. Neither is there one tried-and-true method for recording them. Oh, I have done scrapbooks, photo albums, journals, livejournal, etc. But even though these things help me process my feelings and reflect on the meaning of self in society, I'm afraid they will dissipate like sands on the beach with the passing of time. I should try to get some snippets from these various sources bound in a book to give to my kids in some hopes that these various preservations of memories don't go *poof* when I do.

  8. I have a little journal that's specifically for "Mom moments" (but I don't keep up with it like I should), but it is a space dedicated to that "sphere" of my life.

  9. LOVE this post! Amen to everything you said!! (Especially the part about hating the feeling of goldfish and cheerios under your feet…ditto!!) I have a blog for that very reason, because I want to remember the stuff I loved about the day, but I can't manage to confine it all into one tiny little FB status. When I started writing multiple status updates, I knew it was time to switch to a more "roomy" place to express myself. (And now I don't bug all those FB people who don't really want all those details anyway.) Thanks again for the awesome post! Loved it.

  10. I was just reading about the one line a day journaling from The Happiness Project. I also, like you, do not think this would work for me.

    When my kids were small, in RS one day during a lesson on keeping history, one sister said she had a goal of writing at least one sentence a day before she goes to bed. I like that idea better because often one sentence would lead into more. But if not, at least she wrote SOMETHING down about her day.

  11. I blog, but not as often as I want to. Time does not stretch as I want it to! I remember listening to a podcast on Cricket & Seagull about the 3-word-journal, and while I don't do it, often wish I did! http://www.podcastalley.com/podcast_details.php?pod_id=4195&allEpisodes=

    As for a sentence for today: "Patro's first day of seminary, facebook chat with the (then elder) Justin who baptised me, uni assignment going nowhere – I'm feeling good!"

  12. I can't remember what exactly inspired me to do this (I think it might have actually been a post here on Segullah), but for a while I was keeping a "Hopeful" journal. I would just write sentences that start with "I hope…" Some days I would write just one line, some days it would be a full page. And I didn't even try to make it an every day thing, just when I felt like it.

    I liked it because it was a way to put a positive perspective on even the negative events in my life (and it was a very tumultuous time of life). When I look back at it now, it's amazing what a story those short little "I hope…"s tell about what I was doing and how I was feeling. There is a lot a raw emotion in it that comes flooding back to me when I read it. I'd like to start that up again.

    For the record: I had previously tried several times to do an "I'm thankful…" journal (I think the first time at the suggestion of a YW leader), but that one never felt very genuine and never stuck.


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