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When You Need To Journal But The Words Don’t Come

write the truest sentence that you know, Hemingway

When I’m staring at a blank screen with a blinking cursor, and my brain feels utterly barren, I turn to Hemingway’s wise words.

“I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say.”

They help to slow and quiet my racing, roaring thoughts.

This has to be a great first sentence. This article is going to take forever. Seriously? That’s your first line? You’re really a crappy writer. Remember this has to be great. Really great. And right now, this sucks. You suck.

I think Heminway’s words can easily apply to journaling.

Journaling offers us many benefits. We get to know ourselves better. We figure out our dreams and next steps. We process our emotions and thoughts in a healthy way.

Like Susannah writes on her website: Journaling is “…an on-going conversation with self, that we can do any place at any time.”

But sometimes we’re at a loss for what to write. Sometimes we’re unsure or insecure or hesitant.

Or sometimes we have too many thoughts coursing through our busy brains. We have a hard time getting to the nitty gritty. To the bare bones.

Either way, the words don’t come.

For those days,  journal the truest sentence that you know. The truest thought. The truest feeling. The truest moment.

And, if you want to delve deeper, consider why that’s the case. Then ask yourself how you can proceed. What’s the best next step you can take knowing this information?

An example: I am angry with my body.

Why am I angry? Maybe it’s because of my weight. This isn’t how I want to look. It frustrates me that my body won’t bend and give me what I want.

What’s the healthiest thing I can do with this anger? What’s my next step?

I can channel it. I can channel it into a creative project, a workout, or another self-care activity I really enjoy. I can talk to a therapist about my frustrations, or figure out how I can accept myself as I am. I can ponder if I’d be able to get what I want without changing my weight.

Another example: I don’t know who I am.

Why don’t I know? Maybe it’s because I’ve followed other people’s shoulds and expectations. Maybe it’s because I stopped listening to myself.

What’s the healthiest thing I can do with this information? What’s my next step?

I can make a basic list of my likes and dislikes. I can spend some time meditating and visualizing what happiness looks like for me. I can start experimenting with different activities and hobbies to discover what I truly enjoy.

A third example: Today is a shitty day.

Why do I feel so bad? Maybe it’s because I’m feeling overwhelmed. Maybe it’s because I need more sleep. Maybe it’s because nothing seemed to go my way.

What’s the healthiest thing I can do with this information? What’s my next step?

I can sit here and feel these feelings, breathing through them. I can take a nap, or do any other activities that soothe me: taking a bath, meditating, praying, calling a loved one, journaling some more. I can make a list of what I can and can’t control.

Journal the truest sentence that you know. Pick up the pen, open your notebook, and begin.

What’s the truest sentence that you know?

When You Need To Journal But The Words Don’t Come

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2013). When You Need To Journal But The Words Don’t Come. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 5, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 Jul 2013
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