write it down

Writing stuff down changes everything. I mean, it can’t help you dunk a basketball, but that’s on you for being too short. (I can’t dunk either – we should be friends!)

If you want to take control of your life, or meet your goals, or be grateful for what you have – you need to write stuff down. If you want to be a better spouse or parent or friend, you need to write stuff down. 

I was reminded of this by a single photo from my time in Nepal – the one you see posted up top. 

The woman in the photo is the mother of a little girl named Amita. (You can see Amita’s face in the photo held by Rinjin, my guide.) She lost Amita, her 7 year old daughter, two years earlier, when she was taken by a child trafficker. 

I had first found Amita a year before that photo was taken. I discovered her in a little shack in the capital of Kathmandu, huddled together with six other trafficked kids. Before I could rescue her, she was kidnapped away again. 

It took me a few more months of searching to find her, but I did, in a village a few hours west of Kathmandu. (It was a miracle that I found her. I’m not even joking – an actual miracle.)

We got her to a safe place and took care of her, and after a while she started to trust me.  

But we needed to find her mom. She was from a village in the far northwest corner of Nepal, deep in the Himalaya, with no roads leading in or out. We weren’t sure exactly where. So I went looking for her. It was a long journey.

But here’s the point of me telling you all this:

In the photo, I’m exhausted and dehydrated and sick. We also had some extraordinarily bad luck in being discovered by the Maoists. The man in the camouflage jacket behind me is a Maoist. They would come for us that night. (That was a terrible night.)

And still, in the moment this photo was snapped, with the Maoist standing over me and everything else distracting me, all I could think about was writing down every word this mother said. That notebook and what I wrote in it would be the only evidence of how a little girl had been trafficked. And I knew Amita would want – would need – every detail about her family.

When I wrote Little Princes, I pulled 90 percent straight from my blog – the one that predated this one. The other 10 percent of the book was pulled from sources like the notebook you see in the photo. That notebook allowed me to recall the little things, like how I felt in the moment. It helped me recall how impossible it all felt at the time.

That original blog, which became Little Princes, only existed because I had a community of readers encouraging me to keep writing. (You know who you are.) The community around this blog has changed my life, which helped change the lives of kids like Amita, because it encouraged me to not give up.

This is Amita more recently, when we visited the kids in Nepal. This is Liz and Amita, years later. (Amita wants to be president of Nepal. I want that too.)

I tell you all that to tell you this:  This photo reminded me that Writing Stuff Down can change everything in your life. I’m going to share five ways that it changed mine (none of which has anything to do with writing a book). 

     1. Writing Combats Anxiety.

My mind is like a greenhouse for Anxiety. Anxiety grows there, in the dark, alongside eggplants the size of rowboats and pumpkins that would sink a frigate. Writing stuff down cuts off the oxygen to my Anxiety. It turns my crazy thoughts into shallow realities instead of the hothouse nightmares that swallow me whole.

     2. Writing is an Immune System for my Psyche. 

Our Memory betrays us. You ever break up with some jerk boyfriend and after a few months your Memory is all like “You know, he wasn’t so bad – remember that trip to Napa? Why did you even break up? Quick – text him!” Well, your Writing is there wagging a finger going “Nuh-uh, sister” because you were smart enough to write down in the moment how that guy treated you and how you felt worthless around him. Writing protects your heart. 

     3. Writing Reminds Us How Far We Have Come.

Your Mind will tell you that you’re not keeping up with everyone else. It will tell you that you are incapable of success. But your Writing shouts that down. It’s all like “Hold up, Bummer McDownerville. Remember when you didn’t think you’d even get this job, and now you’re rockin’ it? And how you never thought you would do XYZ but now you’re KILLING it doing XYZ?” And guess what, people: Your Writing is right. Your Compare-Yourself-to-Everyone Mind is wrong.

     4. Writing Allows You to Speak the Unedited Truth.

There is only one person to whom you can be your absolute, uncensored self: You. (And God. So that’s two people, I guess – Liz keeps a prayer journal, after all). Writing It Down (to yourself or as a prayer) gives you the Perfect Audience: One that will love you and never judge you. That kind of freedom is hard to describe until you experience it. 

     5. Writing Makes You Grateful for What You Have.

When I am down, or in a dark place because of some failure, that’s what I write about, because that’s the Uncensored Truth. But I also try to write down what I have. I am always amazed at the impact of seeing those things written: That you’re in a relationship that matters. Or that you have children. Or that you have friends who would do anything for you. Or a job that feeds you. Or a faith that sustains you.

I was remembering all that when I looked at this photo. That notebook in the photo, that held some horrible stories. But in the end that notebook was a story of triumph. Because with all the horrible things I was writing down – stories of children being taken and the pain of the parents – that notebook was ultimately the beginning of a story that would lead to the reconnection of 500 lost children by Next Generation Nepal.

Now: Writing might sound daunting. But you know how you pretend to like museums but they’re really mostly totally boring? Writing is the best museum in the history of the world. It’s the museum of YOU. All of you is in there, perfectly preserved, who you were and how you felt, throughout history. That’s a museum worth exploring.

And because writing can go anywhere we want, I’m going to finish up this blog the way we always do, with our traditional top five list – inspired by museums…

Top Five Things I Pretend to Like:


99% of the time I want to literally shout the word “GROAN!” when I’m walking through art galleries. But everyone around me who’s busy pretending to like museums would give me the stink eye, like I’d just outed them because they all know they’re a bunch of liars. Don’t get me wrong, first few minutes in an art gallery are great stuff, probably because I just ducked out of a hail storm. Next two hours? GROAN!


Come on with the jazz already. I mean, background music, great. But going to a jazz concert? Watching it? What are we doing here, people? I don’t get it.

New Years Eve Parties.

So done with these. Six hours of watching a clock and everyone around you is drinking and shouting at your face about why every high school kid should be forced to watch Breakfast Club and when finally it’s midnight you get to drive home in the freezing weather and pray that you reach your house before the Drunk People of America get in their seven-seat Tahoes and start whirly-birding all over the black ice. Worst. Party. Ever!

Documentaries about Stuff Like Font. (Font!)

This movie, Helvetica? No, man. Just no. Everyone was like You gotta watch it! and I tried but it was about font. Helvetica Font! Which sounds like the new Potions professor at Hogwarts. 


Is this required now, loving raw oysters? I’ve spent a decade graduating to actually being able to choke them down, now I gotta pretend like I’m so happy we’re ordering a couple dozen for the table? Get outta here with these things.

Friends, I know my limitations as a writer. You know them too. We don’t need to be great writers. We just need to get it down. Come on, we’ll do it together. It’s not like our calendar is all jammed up with dunking basketballs, amiright?

By | 2018-02-07T13:59:53-04:00 February 7th, 2018|32 Comments


  1. Elsa Brule February 7, 2018 at 9:22 am - Reply

    From tears to smiles…Wow. The Best.

    P.S. Trick for going to museums from my NYU art teacher. “Go for one hour. Two, max, Stroll down the center and something will pull you in for a closer look.” No need to move from painting to painting. Wait for what attracts you. Then, leave before you have sore feet.

    • Conor February 7, 2018 at 10:40 am - Reply

      Leave before you have sore feet! I think that might be it. All my memories are of sore feet! Thanks for your encouragement Elsa!!

  2. Saba February 7, 2018 at 10:05 am - Reply

    I’ve missed your writing!! This made my day 🙂

    • Conor February 7, 2018 at 10:40 am - Reply

      Woo hoo! Day-making! Thanks for reading Saba!

  3. dad February 7, 2018 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    Word “museum” always sounds stodgy, yes. Full of expectations. No matter. Try keeping journal next time you have an hour among great paintings. Just take in two or three. Hold on. Jot down what you see, anything you like. Don’t judge. Let it happen. An hour, before sore feet or tired eyes or numb mind. Then . . . . There now. (and WHO was it started you journalling in the last century….????)

    • Conor February 7, 2018 at 12:29 pm - Reply

      You are the journaling king! I will always take your advice. Partly because I want to set a good example for Finn taking his father’s advice… 🙂

  4. dad February 7, 2018 at 12:18 pm - Reply

    the Nepal memory just right, btw.

    • Conor February 7, 2018 at 12:30 pm - Reply

      I love that the notebook is in the photo, it brings me back!

  5. Bc February 7, 2018 at 12:44 pm - Reply

    Do you still use a notebook or type? Just curious.
    Also museums: 1) get a membership and go an hour at a time, or with an art historian. Makes it 100%more interesting. 2) go and enjoy the silence. It’s not just about the paintings, but the quiet calm atmosphere 🙂

    • Conor February 7, 2018 at 12:49 pm - Reply

      Now I type – too lazy! But I’ve actually used that big ol’ museum in London as a place to walk, that’s how huge it is. And I can totally get behind that, if I don’t count it as a museum. Even though it’s a museum. Thanks for reading!!

  6. Heather February 7, 2018 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    A lot of fun. Ii agree….oysters. I can’t.

    • Conor February 7, 2018 at 2:00 pm - Reply

      Right. Because they’re oysters. And we’re not marooned.

  7. Liz February 7, 2018 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    I love that everyone is trying to get you into museums. : )

    • Conor February 7, 2018 at 3:58 pm - Reply

      I’m not havin’ it.

  8. Joan February 7, 2018 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    Elsa and dad know the secret. Two paintings at most..can change the way you see parts of the world. The photo I took of Anita on the swing has always been one of my favorites. The beautiful kids of Nepal will always be grateful to you. Best blog!! Thank you.

    • Conor February 7, 2018 at 3:58 pm - Reply

      Two paintings, that’s it. Final offer.

  9. Jill February 7, 2018 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    When I read your writing, I hear you speaking it. It makes it even more entertaining. You should go to a museum with Eric. He’s hilarious and is ready to leave within 30 minutes. Come on OYSTERS are delicious. You’re missing out.

    • Conor February 7, 2018 at 4:45 pm - Reply

      30 minutes in a museum seems about right. Maybe grab some oysters at the restaurant? Pretend to just ADORE them?

  10. Joy Bounds February 7, 2018 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    Unless of course it’s a really awesome Children’s Museum!! I’m so excited to have just finished your book in 2 days! I can’t wait to share it with my people. Thank you so much for your honesty and what you’ve done and continue to do for the”least of these.”

    • Conor February 7, 2018 at 9:28 pm - Reply

      Oooh, children’s museum! Yes! That’s a good answer right there. Doesn’t fit the mold. Thanks for reading Joy! Thanks for spreading the word about the blog :-).

  11. Marcy prager February 8, 2018 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    Such a wonderful entry! I started writing and stopped. I need to continue. Thank you for the inspiration!

    • Conor February 8, 2018 at 2:04 pm - Reply

      Yes! Get to it! You need to continue! Thanks Marcy!

  12. Marleen (belgium) February 10, 2018 at 1:26 am - Reply

    I think we can be friends I stopped pretending I like museums, jazz, New years eve parties and oysters

    • Conor February 10, 2018 at 6:53 am - Reply

      New friend Marleen!!

  13. Dawn M Davis February 11, 2018 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    Yes, let the art pull you in – alone in Mexico City I stumbled upon the Museo de La Luz not far from the little place where I was staying. The Museum focuses on various phenomena involving light across many disciplines. Entrance was free at the time because they were renovating; great, I was on a tight budget. I walked straight into the art exhibit and the first painting I saw was a huge abstract type of beautiful colors radiating in all directions. The artist caption read: La energía no puede ser creada o destruida, solo puede cambiar de forma. I understand enough Spanish to know that, though not properly cited, it was a wonderful quote from Albert Einstein “Energy cannot be created nor destroyed, it merely changes form.” It was also one of the last things my amazing husband said to me before he died of cancer a few years earlier, believing that our energy would again cross paths in the future. My whole time in the mountains there and exploring Mexico I kept thinking how much he would have loved it. And there he was, with me the whole time.

    • Conor February 11, 2018 at 8:02 pm - Reply

      Oh my gosh, that’s beautiful. The messages we receive like that are worth so much that it’s impossible to put them into words. Thank you for sharing that story, Dawn, it’s really amazing!!

  14. Dawn M Davis February 14, 2018 at 6:44 am - Reply

    Thank YOU for sharing so much of yourself! I came across your book in Fredricksburg, VA last summer and couldn’t put it down. Lovely to know you and your beautiful family live so close in CT – I teach many Tibetan children here in CT (English) and your photos remind me so much of my students. It was hard to imagine them, or any other children, in the circumstances you so lovingly wrote about. Thankfully they are allowed to grow up knowing true goodness because you followed your heart.

    • Conor February 14, 2018 at 8:00 am - Reply

      I love those Tibetan kids! I lived around a ton of them in Kathmandu. But of course that was Kathmandu. Didn’t realize they were in CT!

  15. Dawn M Davis February 14, 2018 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    Yes, in Southeastern CT! Unfortunately, most are working at the two casinos in the area, can’t get much more removed from Kathmandu than that! Their children attend the public schools where I teach, lucky me! I have to say that I am really charmed by the Tibetan kids, every since my first little boy, Tenzin Shaba K., 11 years ago – beautiful family. There is quite a large community in the area, if I hear of any celebrations going on in the community, I’ll let you know! I’m sure they would get a kick out of you speaking one of the area languages…maybe there is overlap?

    • Conor February 14, 2018 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      My speaking ability is limited to shaking my head and smiling. But I can maybe fake it? Thanks Dawn!!

  16. Dominique Kaup March 11, 2018 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    Dear Connor, I just (a few minutes ago) finished „Little Princes“ in German and now I am looking for every information I can find about you and your project via Internet. I am very impressed and thinking about what to do to support you. Are you still working with ngn? I am very very pleased that there are still people like you in this planet. Best wishes

    • Conor March 11, 2018 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      Thank you Dominique! And thanks for reading! Yes, I’m still running NGN! Thanks for your support!

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