Post-It Inspiration: Compiled Bits on Writing and Memoir

While I tend to muse on fleetingness and elusive memory, and find an odd satisfaction in not knowing, recording, or understanding, I do believe in Post-its: a thought frozen in time, emerging from somewhere I sometimes don’t recall.

Yellow slips of paper stuck to my journal pages. Virtual ones scattered on my desktop. While I maintain this blog, I don’t write regularly and rely on sporadic surges to keep me going. That’s not a bad thing, I guess—it’s just how it is.

But the strange comfort a Post-it brings: it’s nice to come upon a note I’ve written for myself that I knew I would need again. As if I continue to evolve as a writer, yet face the same challenges over and over.

I am reminded that the writing process is not something to conquer.

Below, I’ve collected some of these notes. If you have notes of your own that move you—or quotes you particularly like—feel free to share.


  • Don’t write toward a goal. Write to get lost.
  • Know, however, when you’ve strayed too far. You can’t rely on fleetingness and fog all the time.
  • You’re a good writer. Not great. Remember that.
  • Some ideas in your blog queue will never leave the incubator. Deal with it.
  • Others have written about [insert subject here] before. Don’t act like you’re the first.
  • You have experiences that may offer a new angle. Figure it out.
  • Write about yourself. You can step just over the line separating relatable and alienating, but always come back.
  • You’re scared about revisiting certain topics, which is good: restraint and subtlety are tools.
  • Your past is the most free, accessible source for ideas. Use it.
  • Write about what you know, but don’t approach it as if you know everything.
  • Stop telling yourself you can’t write scenes. You’re just lazy.
  • Don’t bother with big words; don’t try to impress. You don’t talk that way anyway.
  • Your voice comes out naturally. Don’t bother it.
  • Never post anything you haven’t read out loud many times. Ever.
  • If you wake up on your day off and want to write, write all day. The surges are infrequent, you know.
  • Your memories shapeshift. This is exciting. Use them creatively.
  • If you don’t remember, then write about how you don’t remember. Don’t make it up.
  • If you think facts are inconvenient, you lack creativity.
  • It’s okay that your blog doesn’t fit a specific category. Just fucking write what you want; your themes will emerge on their own.
  • Don’t freak out if you think and feel differently from what you wrote six months ago. Or last week. It’s a good thing you recorded it, then.
  • The piece needs to end, but that does not mean you must come to a conclusion.
  • Be very careful with the point above.
  • You will know when something is done. But that doesn’t mean you won’t write about it again.

Published by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Senior editor at Longreads / Automattic

28 thoughts on “Post-It Inspiration: Compiled Bits on Writing and Memoir

  1. “Your voice comes out naturally. Don’t bother it.”
    This line was absolutely beautiful. I love the simplicity of the wisdom it holds. It isn’t easy to let go of the idea of “speaking” to an audience in a fabricated manner. Everyone feels at one time or another that they must sound or come across a certain way to capture the proper style or voice for their work. Truly, one must only speak truly. Thanks for this post. It was very reassuring and gave me a new perspective that helps me in my quest to conquer this beast called creativity.

    1. A thoughtful comment — thank you. I agree about how we feel we must sound a certain way — whether smarter, more polished, etc. — but in the end, when it comes to voice I tell myself I have to trust it. I focus instead on telling the story, writing tight prose, and shaping the piece. My voice is its own beast — I have to let it do its own thing.

  2. A brief comment on “Write about what you know, but don’t approach it as if you know everything.”

    I agree — this is perhaps the most intimate kind of writing that we can share with our readers. It comes from the heart, based on our experiences.

    But there’s something to be said for writing something you don’t know about. Stephen King, in his On Writing, explains the benefits of conquering this fear and learning how to write about something you don’t know. This is how we exercise (perhaps develop and hone) our imagination.

    1. So true, Eugene. And I agree. I think for the majority of the nonfiction/memoir posted on this blog, writing from experience creates the most intimate, organic, and emotional discussion possible, but I certainly can’t ignore other modes of writing. I have done a fair amount of reporting over the past 15 years and — to be honest — have never really enjoyed it. Some of my favorite writing is immersion journalism — Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s Random Family, Sudhir Venkatesh’s Gang Leader For a Day, and Ted Conover’s Rolling Nowhere — pieces in which writers absorb themselves into their stories and dive into worlds they often know nothing about. I wish I was more interested in experimenting with this kind of writing, but I’m not.

  3. •The piece needs to end, but that does not mean you must come to a conclusion.
    •You will know when something is done. But that doesn’t mean you won’t write about it again.
    I like these two best because as I write sometimes I find myself going on and on and all the time thinking to myself, “ok, wrap it up girl.” Encouraging. Thanks for this post.

  4. Firstly I’m going to act the pointless person and say that I really admire your handwriting. Then of course, the lines- absolutely true and from the heart or perhaps from experience, as that would be more appropriate. I’m going to take away all of that for sure and stock them with my favourites for lean periods in future 🙂

    I have a folder in my computer where I stock the virtual post-its categorised by months. Every month my destop is flooded with them and I simply cannot click the cross mark on them. They are really precious, yes. Somehow I didn’t attach so much importance to it before but was unknowingly treasuring them. Mind you mine are way more useless in terms of content but I suppose its the precipitousness that is strongly attractive.

  5. There’s a good chance that by this single post; you’ve managed to save a thousand literary dreams and any journalistic locomotive running dry. 🙂

    “You are your own reader” is the midnight oil that keeps my lamp burning.

  6. Ah, so much good stuff here! I think “It’s okay that your blog doesn’t fit a specific category. Just fucking write what you want; your themes will emerge on their own” needs to be my new mantra.

  7. Great post! I definitely need to physically write with a pen more. There’s something about a pen and paper that blogging just doesn’t have..

    1. Agree. I’d like to write in a journal more often, like I used to. I also notice my penmanship is different after a long hiatus of writing in one — my hands feel stiff and it takes a while to get into a groove. My thoughts are different, too, as are the words used — I usually keep things simple and succinct.

      It’s an exercise I need to revisit more.

  8. Lovely post. I’ve just started getting into the habit of writing regularly again (after years of not doing it), and I really needed to be reminded of these things. Perfectionism is an annoying beast to beat, but this helps. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

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