A Week’s Worth of Journaling Prompts: Diligence 15

For my eighth birthday, my mother presented me with a used, Royal typewriter and a dogeared college typing text. Though I’m sure I received many other gifts that birthday, these are the only ones I remember. I don’t think I was a particularly conscientious child — in fact I’m positive I was not — and I’m not sure what motivated me, but nearly every day for a period of months, I would sit in my room, diligently reading and practicing the exercises from that textbook. Page by page, I worked my way from “a;sldkfj a;sldkfj aa ;; ss ll dd kk ff jj” and “See the quick red fox jump over the lazy tan dog” to typing real sentences, paragraphs, and a few of my homegrown stories. And when I finally slapped the book shut, I was typing an accurate 35 words per minute. As it turned out, keyboarding was a skill that would open career doors in my future, as well become cause for gratitude.

It wasn’t until recently that I began thinking about the skill beneath the skill — diligence — the ability to apply consistent, conscientious care to a task. And to think about all the ways in which diligence, applied to my life, has helped me.

This week’s writing prompts are designed to explore diligence, its associations in our lives, and how it surrounds and affects us in ways we may not always realize.

  1. Freewrite for at least ten minutes about diligence.
  2. Write about a specific time in your life when you were diligent or applied diligence to something. What was that like, and what was the outcome?
  3. Do you have any strong emotional associations with the terms diligence, rigor, or persistence? If so, what are they? Explore the stories surrounding these associations.
  4. Do you think of yourself as a “diligent” sort of person? Why or why not? What qualities does a diligent person have?
  5. What are the two sides of diligence? In other words, in what situations might it be considered a negative quality and in what situations a positive quality?
  6. In this culture, diligence is considered to be part of a strong work ethic. Why do you think this is so?In what kinds of cultures would diligence be considered strange or unnecessary?
  7. Respond to the following two quotes. How does each make sense, and how could you apply the wisdom each has to offer in your life?

“Diligence is a good thing, but taking things easy is much more restful.” (Mark Twain)
“What we hope every to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence.” (Samuel Johnson)

I invite you to share your thoughts about diligence with all of us — leave a comment.

Image Credit: Jessica Lucia


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15 thoughts on “A Week’s Worth of Journaling Prompts: Diligence

  • Pingback: A Week’s Worth of Journaling Prompts: Diligence — Writing Through Life | personal storytelling | Scoop.it

  • Herchel Newman

    A friend told me how he was mistakingly scheduled to typing class in high school. He tried to get it changed, but missed the deadline for class changes. It was at a time when only girls took typing.

    He said he didn’t find it easy, but since he was in the class he was diligent in doing the exercises. He came out of it a pretty good typist and a little thicker skinned from the ribbing the guys gave him.

    A couple years later he found himself a draftee in the US Army and on his way to Viet Nam. When his platoon arrived and were being processed, they were asked if any of them could type. He said there were three of them.

    He said he spent his entire tour in the Admin Bldg as one of the processors. He said, “When we returned there weren’t near as many as when they arrived.” His diligence in learning to type had a profound affect on his life.

  • Linda Sievers

    For me, diligence has always been a positive quality that has served me well in one demanding career of a dancer and teacher, and now it seems to be very helpful to me as I learn about writing. I suppose it could be a negative trait if one allowed it to interfere with human relationships by using it to distance oneself from others. I’ve done this, too. However, I love Mark Twain’s quote, diligence coupled with restful. Very witty and wise man.

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      Linda, thanks for the comment. You remind us that diligence, like all traits we consider positive, can become negative if unbalanced. I hadn’t thought about diligence as a way of distancing oneself from others.

  • Samantha M. White

    Diligence is so much a part of who I am, I never really thought of it as anything special. Your post, Amber, and the feedback I’ve received on my memoir, has made me aware that we have something in common that not everyone has. My first typewriter ( at age 11) was a beat-up old Underwood upright, and I, like you, simply decided without even thinking about it that I would teach myself to type like a pro. I practiced every chance I had, and was pretty good at it by the time I finished high school (although I had to break myself of the habit of looking at the keys, a variation on “editing as I go.”) I applied the same diligence to everything I went after, from getting the cute guy to ask me out to getting into the graduate school of my choice, and to where I find myself today, at 73, living a life of peace, purpose, and joy, despite enormous obstacles. I wonder whether diligence isn’t perhaps an element of personality, that we are born with or that is wired into us early in life. Does anyone switch from taking life as it comes to becoming dedicated to making it what they want? Probably, but I think that first there would need to be great motivation, and the motivation would need to be inspired, somehow. I was always inspired, always wanted to become competent at everything and make my family name (which was foreign and difficult to spell and pronounce) famous. I gave up on fame early on, and took my first husband’s name (easier!), but have never lost the tendency to throw myself into every undertaking and hang in until it is completed to the best of my ability. In me, it is a character element, and possibly sometimes a flaw. Perseverance can be a virtue and a strength, but late in life I have become aware that maybe I was lacking the wisdom and courage that is sometimes necessary to quit something that is ill-advised and failing, to walk away from a mistake, to change direction when the direction shows itself to be not what I had thought it would be, and not what I want. I am getting better at it. Diligence can be an excellent thing, but in my experience sometimes overrated. We don’t hear much about the merits of quitting (unless it’s smoking, drinking, overeating), and I think that is an interesting writing prompt, too . . . at least for me, who has long needed to develop an openness to it. Perhaps diligence, like most things, is best in moderation. Thanks for the opportunity to think about this with you!

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      Samantha, you have such an interesting story! Regarding whether we switch to diligence from lack of it, I think that in my case I have been diligent about some things (the typing, for example) and not diligent about others. I also think there’s a difference between perseverance and diligence, though they are closely related. So learning when “enough is enough” and when it’s best to walk away from something might be more a function of balancing perseverance, diligence seems to me to be the application of effort one gives while one is learning or working on something. It certainly seems as though you have plenty of both qualities. One thing I’m hearing from everyone here, is that wisdom includes balance and moderation in all things, even those qualities we consider as positive. Thank you for sharing your story and your thoughts on this subject.

      • Samantha M. White

        I like your distinction between diligence and perseverance, Amber. Perseverance can be thought of as blindly hanging in, perhaps another word for tenacity, whereas diligence implies conscious devotion to a task. Diligence is considered and motivated, perseverance implies plodding and refusal to let go – sometimes a good thing, sometimes not.
        Ah, the nuances of words – I love to take them apart and examine them, and use them with informed care. That’s why I love to work with words, in speech, in writing, alone or with others.

  • Sharon Lippincott

    When I was about ten, I found my mother’s typing book, probably the same book you used and also dogeared, and taught myself to type on my dad’s portable typewriter, just as you did, though I spent less time at it. I didn’t have my own typewriter until I was a junior in high school and thinking ahead to college. I must have had a premonition of my tendency toward verbosity, because I chose one with type slightly smaller than elite, and a 1.5 line-spacing option. That machine fit a lot of words on a page! My friends all wanted pica type to pad the length of their papers.

    I learned diligence from my mother, who insisted I finish one sewing project before beginning another. She also insisted that every seam be perfect. Since I loved to sew and heavily relied on this economical means of expanding my wardrobe, I spent a huge chunk of my girlhood ripping and resewing — good practice for editing manuscripts and preparing course material later in life.

    I can’t write or think about diligence without straying onto the topic of PATIENCE. Diligence requires (or teaches) a lot of that.

    Thanks for the juicy topic!

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      Sharon, I had no idea that so many of us taught ourselves to type when we were young. How interesting … and I love the analogy of sewing (the ripping and resewing) to the writing process. I agree. Patience and diligence are twin traits.

  • Samantha M. White

    What an apt connection, Sharon – it explains a lot of my stress. I’m long on diligence, short on patience. That, in a nutshell, is the bete noir of my existence. I want to do everything, and do it thoroughly, and I want it done by (to quote my mother) “yesterday.” Understanding this clarifies my next challenge: deciding whether to let go, allow the time, or find a middle ground. (So this is blogging . . . . I like it a lot, am looking forward to getting started on choosing topics for my own blog.)

  • Sunny Hawk

    When my daughter was 6 years old she wanted to conquer the monkey bars and worked diligently until she accomplished her goal. I was in awe of her ability to keep going despite painful blisters and repeated failures. I would have given up immediately. Looking back, I think what stopped me was the belief that I could never accomplish the task so why bother. The difference between my daughter and myself was where I never discouraged her belief in herself, my own mother actively discouraged my belief in myself. In the end I find it is belief in one’s ability to accomplish a goal that determines the amount of diligence available to accomplish that goal. I have healed a great deal of my mother’s influences but as I face new challenges I am aware how her beliefs can still affect my performance. When I am lacking the necessary diligence, I look at what belief system is being activated so that I can get past it.

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      Sunny, thank you for sharing your story with us. I was particularly struck by your words: “In the end I find it is belief in one’s ability to accomplish a goal that determines the amount of diligence available to accomplish that goal.” And the self-awareness you demonstrate through your willingness to examine limiting beliefs. Thank you for inspiring me.