Why I must write in Daydreaming on the Porch

  • Sept. 18, 2020, 11:47 a.m.
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  • Public

I recently had an opportunity to think hard about why I write. Simply answered, it’s because I always have liked to write, and for years I wrote for a living when I was a newspaper reporter and editor.

But the real answers are much more complex and nuanced. As I wrote recently to an old friend I hadn’t been in touch with for almost 40 years, “Writing is as essential to me as eating and breathing. I feel lost when I haven’t written.”

When I taught middle school English many years ago, I tried to emphasize the importance of writing frequently, every day if possible. I had my students keep journals, and I think to this day that was probably one of the most important things I did in the classroom, even if only one or two of them kept up the practice.

For me, writing is never, ever easy. Maybe for hacks. Serious writers are obsessed with writing, to the point where, like me their treasured books get neglected. Ever since my caregiving days ended n January I’ve felt a compulsion to write often and share what I’ve observed, thought about, experienced, felt deeply and have called forth from a lifetime of memories. And analyze myself and my past constantly. Living only in the present can be quite limiting when your mind is an expanding universe where time doesn’t matter so much, but the past and future do.

What I’m writing and posting here now is a far cry different from when I was working full-time and caregiving. Then, I was lucky if I could post something once a month, and that I as usually my Dementia Journal. Now I’ve got dozens of ideas for entries in my digital notebook on my phone, and I’m posting several times a week, much as I did in the old Open Diary days.

My mother had dementia. I worry about getting that. So basically, there are a couple of reasons why I seem to have this urgency to write: 1) the pandemic and all that entails as it has rapidly changed all our lives in so many ways, and 2) fear of losing my mind gradually. Therefore, I feel I must write while I can. My muse can take many forms. Life is full of mystery, wonder, sadness, happiness and tragedy and comedy. There are endless subjects to write about, including reminiscing about the past.

By the very fact of my urgent need to write, I have become more philosophical. Thinking deeply about anything is philosophical to me. It could also be a form of meditation. Most of what ends up in my online essays has been thought about for days or weeks. Then comes the time when it all must come out.

One of the keys to writing optimally is to write often, every day, for myself and my intended audience, and even if I have to do it in the middle of the night or early in the morning. Personally, I can’t have a set time to write.

I’ve become obsessed with writing. There seems to be no let up. Time feels like it’s always running out. I’m constantly thinking of essays I want to write. I’m content with this audience, or potential audience of readers, however few there are. It’s the same now as at my heyday at Open Diary where I started in 1999. I think the fact that there seem to be thousands of other people keeping journals here at PB attests to the fact that I am not alone in my thinking on this subject.

Writing is the happy end result of so much mental activity that is saved and not lost. That is a powerful feeling of accomplishment.

Last updated September 18, 2020

Kristi1971 September 18, 2020

Use it or lose it does not just refer to muscles, but to the mind and brain also. :)

I love how writing helps one to explore and discover. One can find a solution to a problem, evaluate a situation, or discover something about themselves. I feel like writing can be a connection to our subconscious while we are awake in a different way that dreaming is a connection in our sleep.

Marg Kristi1971 ⋅ September 18, 2020

I completely agree Kristi!

Oswego Kristi1971 ⋅ September 19, 2020

Very good and perceptive points. Writing connects us to our deepest though and enables us to actually articulate them on screen or paper. Once that process has begun, we go deeper and deeper into our subconscious where we can find answers to many questions. Then we have to keep writing those down. :)

Oswego Kristi1971 ⋅ September 23, 2020

I’ve read this note several times now, and there’s a lot of wisdom contained in these words. Writing pulls from the subconscious, thoughts and memories that I have control over, to some extent, whereas I seem to have no control over dreams. They just play in very strange but plausible scenarios. People say you can control deems in lucid dreaming. I don’t know. But dreams and memory are both my latest obsessions to learn more about. And what I learn on those topics I will try to write down so it won’t be forgotten. And I’ll share that here at PB.

Kristi1971 Oswego ⋅ September 23, 2020

I have had dreams where I am aware I am dreaming and I wake myself up (if I have to go to the bathroom) or sort of watch where it does. It's a really odd feeling to be dreaming like that. I think that may be what they mean by that.

Marg September 18, 2020

I feel the same about writing - there’s something so comforting about taking up the pen and splurging thoughts onto the paper. When I was ill in bed, unable to do anything, I set myself tiny goals each day to get better and writing a few lines every day was one of them. In the beginning I could only manage a few words very laboriously and then it evolved to a whole A4 page a day which was incredibly satisfying! It causes me great angst that I can only manage one entry a month in here though - I can’t tell you how many entries I start in my head throughout that month haha!

Oswego Marg ⋅ September 19, 2020

Oh my! I’m so glad you post what you do as it’s a very illuminating look at your life. Tiny goals are often the best and sometimes the only way to a larger goal and ambition! I might suggest that when you start an entry in your head, immediately write down or type in your device phrases and keywords, no matter what order they’re in. When you go back to start writing an entry those jottings will function as a memory prompt. It’s a variation on the theme of brainstorming. It might help.

Marg Oswego ⋅ September 19, 2020

Yes I do that! Not so much for the monthly entry because that would become humongous if I included everything and they’re long enough already so that has to be more of a ‘what stood out this month’ type of entry. But I jot stuff down in the Notes section of my phone for the daily diary because there are times when I may not be able to write for a few days so I need to remember what happened 4 days previously haha!

ConnieK September 18, 2020

I write. I've never thought about why. I just write. I think creativity comes out in different ways. Writing is one of the things I do to create other things (writing grants to fund the non-profit), to preserve history (articles about my maternal relatives' life in the 1930s), spout my opinion (facebook and prosebox), and for pure joy and imagination (4 or 5 manuscripts completed). If I did not have pen and paper (so to speak), I'd write in the dirt.

Oswego ConnieK ⋅ September 19, 2020

You are right. Writing serves so many purposes. One area I could delve into more is creative writing, such as poetry. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing that again. It’s been 15 years.

ConnieK Oswego ⋅ September 19, 2020

You share yours, I'll share mine. :)

Jinn September 19, 2020

I wish I had the urge to write more often but my days tend to skip away from me lately :-( . Sometimes I think there is nothing in my life worth writing about either . The sameness of each day is depressing :-(

Oswego Jinn ⋅ September 19, 2020

For me there is always something to write about, especially in these pandemic times when life is so strange and the country seems to be in an irreversible downward spiral.

Jinn Oswego ⋅ September 19, 2020

I suppose you have more of a broad perspective than me :-) I get too mired down in the mutinea.

Telstar September 19, 2020

Well said.

One of the virtues of the internet is communication.

Oswego September 21, 2020

Thank you! The Internet is now the primary means of communication and publication for countless writers out there in cyberspace who could never otherwise get their thoughts out to an audience. Amazing!

Sleepy-Eyed John September 22, 2020 (edited September 22, 2020)


During hospital stays patients who write about it have more peace of mind and understand the process better. I think it helps organize our thoughts. Also it helps train powers of observation, learn what you find interesting, etc. I feel like I'm a sometimes hack but I am gradually taking the creative process more seriously.

Brain Pickings has a nice article on the creative benefits of keeping a diary. But I've read a few articles on the value of journaling and it's all confirmed what you've said here.

That's awesome about you getting your students to journal. My Mom suggested it yesrs ago, it didn't stick, then I read something in a book about journaling can promote emotional growth and I figured I could use that. Been doing it ever since.

Lastly not to belabor a point but i remember seeing a line where the speaker said if she had even rudimentary access to her own mind she would have no need to write. I feel that so much. My head is soup haha

Oswego Sleepy-Eyed John ⋅ September 23, 2020

I can tell you are quite serious about writing and keeping a journal.

One of the fascinating things to me about writing is the anticipation of actually writing after thoughts, ideas and observations keep flashing through my mind. Or, when I’m out on my walks ideas pop into my head and I think “hmmm, I’m going to have to write about that.” I think it keeps my mind/memory sharper than otherwise because I juggle so many ideas and topicS, thinking about how I will expand on them when I put together my essay at PB.

So I guess you could say that, strictly speaking, my journal here is not so much a typical diary as it is an ongoing collection of essays about life as I’ve lived it. Everyone has their own reasoning and motivation for the type of journal they have at PB. I rarely write about what happened during my day. I keep a private paper journal for that. When I do write about something that happened during the day, I will take that incident and expand it into an essay with a clear purpose, moral or goal in mind to share with others what I’ve learned. But before I started writing about the incident, I might not have had and end-point lesson. It came to me as I was typing away, getting into the flow and being swept along. That’s the real magic of writing. This is kind of like what was meant in the last line of your note, but I’ll have to think about that some more because I like to think I have more than rudimentary access to my mind. Lol. Maybe not and that’s why ai write.... hmmm

Sleepy-Eyed John Oswego ⋅ September 24, 2020

haha. Funny response. I hear ys about keeping your brain sharp and thinking about writing. Sometimes I plan entries srveral hours in advance.

I used to write more rambling entries but I've tightened the ship up. I also realize the internet is not safe so I curate what I say generally. And finally I try to write entries that will open a conversation or be interesting.

I too keep a private journal but I keep mine in a program not paper.

Sleepy-Eyed John September 22, 2020


Oswego Sleepy-Eyed John ⋅ September 23, 2020

I’m a big fan of Brain Pickings. Actually, it’s one of the finest sites on the Internet. I missed this particular one, so thanks for the link.

Sleepy-Eyed John Oswego ⋅ September 24, 2020

Ya. I like Brain Pickings too but I'm so lazy about reading. I kinda hate electrical devices too. Feel I'm frying my brain and being monitored on every word I read.

Oswego Sleepy-Eyed John ⋅ September 24, 2020 (edited September 24, 2020)


Believe me, they don’t care about us. They’re looking only at advertising dollars, and I never click on ads anyway. I believe in supporting non-profit Websites and paying for subscriptions or donating to good organizations and publications online.

I’ve always thought advertising was a huge fraud and waste, but until recently it paid off handsomely for newspapers, a number of which were my long ago employers. So, I should not complain too much. Advertising to me is a parody of pop culture, which of course, parodies itself.

I’m very selective about what I read at Brain Pickings. I’m just glad it’s there. Can you even imagine what a voracious and intellectually curious reader Maria Popova is?!

Sleepy-Eyed John Oswego ⋅ September 26, 2020

I think there's a lot more going on with data mining. FB has posts of mine from 11 years ago. They've probably kept every like, comment, post, view in their database to create a more accurate profile of me. They use 98 points last I heard - family composition, political orientation, gender, occupation, income level, hobbies, etc. And they use that information to create a profile they sell to advertisers, political parties, government agencies, etc.

I hear ya about advertising. I remember seeing a statistic that in 2005 or around in the USA advertising was a trillion dollar a year industry. That's huge money.

I didn't know who it was but ya I imagine she reads a tonne.

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