Daydreaming on Paper
November 2015
Start With Food

"My life is too boring to write about."

I hear this sentiment or some variation of it expressed time and time again whenever I talk to people about keeping diaries and journals. I see it posted online at various fora and message boards. All across the globe, there are apparently hundreds, thousands, millions of people who do not feel that their lives are interesting enough to explore on paper. I confess to not being able to relate to this concept. As far as I am concerned, one of the best things about my notebook is that it's all about me, and I am always interested in everything I do. The "too boring" sentiment is particularly puzzling in an age where so many of us upload a steady stream of random babble and photography to the internet for all the world to see. From tweets about what we're thinking while we wait in line at the post office to pics of the stuff we just bought at Target, we not only post it all, but we look at everyone else's, too. In the digital age, boring is the new black - fashionable and ubiquitous.

So why is "too boring" such a common reason for not keeping a journal when there really is no such thing? If social media has taught us anything, it's that the mundane can be utterly fascinating. The most basic aspects of our lives become interesting when we approach them with fresh eyes, a sense of wonder, and curiousity. Then, once we are truly engaged, we discover more interesting facets of our daily lives. It's a self-feeding and self-fulfilling cycle. If you think that your life is "too boring" to write about, I suggest that you simply need to find a way to jump start that cycle. One easy way to do this is to turn those fresh eyes toward something that factors into each and every day:

Start with food.

"What did you eat today?"

This was a question we asked each other daily around our house when I was growing up. It was the way that we expressed interest in the other person's everyday adventures, an easy gambit that opened the door for the small, mutual sharings that create relationships and strengthen bonds. Food is interesting. It stimulates all five senses with its endless variety of colors, textures, smells, and combinations, and what we eat and the way we eat it provide insight into everything from our budgets to our values to the way we interact with the world around us, making it the perfect starting point for the day's writing and drawing.

Food is an integral part of our days whether we spend them sitting in cubicles or hiking the Himalayas. We can compare and contrast the food we eat at home with the food we eat at a friend's house or in a roadside diner or at a wedding feast in an exotic locale. We can write about what prompted us to make a certain meal for dinner last night or why we chose blueberry pancakes instead of an omelet from the brunch menu. Even if we eat the same thing every day, we can use that fact to learn more about who we are and what we like. Food is a wellspring of inspiration and possibility.

When you first begin incorporating food into your journal writing, try to do more than simply list what you ate. Remember those five senses, and choose at least two to try to convey on paper. Describe each dish in lush detail. Draw, sketch, or paint all or part of the meal using many layers to highlight the textures. Channel your inner pioneer woman or 19th century explorer and describe every aspect of the food as if you were trying to explain it to the folks back home. (Re)develop a fascination with the edible marvels that fuel your body.

Vivid, detailed written and artistic depictions of food are nice journal entries all by themselves, but you don't have to stop there. Branch outward from your plate from what you are eating to where you are eating it and what brought you to that time, place, and meal. Describe your dining companions or how much you enjoyed people watching from your table for one at an outdoor cafe on a lovely day. Jot down interesting or humorous snippets of conversations that you overheard while eating lunch at your desk. Keep a log of the funniest comments made around the family dinner table. Use food as a way to get your thoughts flowing onto paper, chomping through creative blocks one bite at a time.

25 Food Prompts to Get You Started

  1. What did you eat today?
  2. Did you prepare the food yourself, or did someone else make it? Someone you know or someone you don't know?
  3. Where did it come from?
  4. What are the ingredients? Where did the ingredients come from? Are any of them difficult to obtain?
  5. Did you follow a recipe or did you wing it?
  6. Why did you eat it? Out of habit? Because it's traditional to do so? Was it the only thing in the fridge?
  7. Had you eaten it before? When was the last time? Would you eat it again?
  8. What would you change about the dish or the meal? What would make it perfect?
  9. Where did you eat? In the dining room? In front of the TV? Standing over the kitchen sink? On a blanket at the park? Is that normal for you?
  10. Did you eat in familiar or unfamiliar locales?
  11. Did you use fine china and silver? Paper plates? Your favorite bowl? Or, did you eat straight from the pot? Is that normal for you?
  12. Do you have a mealtime ritual?
  13. Did you add anything to the dish before you ate it? Why?
  14. Did you eat anything that others in your circle consider to be strange or unusual?
  15. What was your favorite of everything that you ate today? Least favorite?
  16. Would your grandparents have eaten this food? Would they have even had an opportunity to do so?
  17. Did you share your food with anyone? Spouse? Children? Pets? Hungry coworker?
  18. Which food group did you consume the most of today? Is that typical for you?
  19. If you dined with other people, what did they eat?
  20. How was the food presented? Does presentation matter to you?
  21. Did you pass on an opportunity to sample something new? Why?
  22. Are you a fast or a slow eater?
  23. Did you eat anything today that tasted much better than you thought it would?
  24. Were you disappointed by anything that you ate today?
  25. What are you looking forward to eating tomorrow?

Happy Scribbling!


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