daily writing

how to use this list

the entries are numbered to make it easier to remember which topics you’ve already done. not that you can’t do them again because each time you write about them they’ll be different – i can’t count the number of times i’ve written about the environment or the morality of racism, for example. but it’s a good way to organize your writing, even if you decide to do the same topic more than once. in each “topic” are various specific prompts. the prompts are classified in one of seven categories – dark, light, argument, thought experiment, translation, quotation and bonus. just pick the one you feel like writing and start. here’s what each of the categories means.

deep & light

the deep exercise is one that will require thought and exploration, possibly research. unless you are already an expert in the topic, this will take some work. light is the opposite. it’s not meant to be a meaningful piece of writing, just something fun you can do to relate to the topic, more like a reflection than an academic exercise.


argument exercises are meant to be focused on one side of a debate. it is your job to explain the situation and convince your reader to agree with you.

thought experiment

these are what-if situations. take a few minutes to think about the deeper effect of the idea that’s presented. there will be a silly answer, of course. but the assignment is to look at the subtle, nuanced result and talk about that. dig deep and you’ll find these aren’t as strange as you might originally have imagined.


translation exercises are exactly that but you’re not being asked to provide a literal translation. that’s what automated translation software is for. you’re not translating for exact meaning or content. what you are aiming for is communicating the same idea (or something close to it) in a fluid and natural way. reword, remove and add, change the organization, whatever makes it a better piece of writing. content is relatively unimportant, only whether it’s well-written in the end.


these quotations are meant to stimulate your mind to explore an idea. most of them are by people you will probably have heard of, maybe know a lot about from school or personal interest. there’s no need to talk about the person or the situation surrounding the actual quotation. talk about the ideas they are exploring in it.


bonus questions are extras that either don’t fit in one of the other categories or are expansions on them. they are usually extensions of translation exercises.

the prompts

  1. environment
    • deep – the planet is dying but it’s not going to collapse in the next hundred years. we’re all going to be dead before things truly fall apart. why do we care what happens in someone else’s lifetime?
    • light – ice is my friend.
    • argument – we should stop drilling for and using oil immediately regardless of the cost.
    • thought experiment – what would happen if you stopped spending money on anything but the essentials of food, shelter, etcetera?
    • translation – go to your favorite national newspaper and take one of the top articles on the environment and translate it to english.
    • quotation – conquer yourself as it is better than ten thousand victories in foreign lands. (the buddha)
    • bonus – write a newspaper article about an environmental issue relevant to your neighborhood.
  2. weather
    • deep – does it truly matter what the weather is? have you ever been truly happy and at peace in the middle of a storm with wind and rain swirling around you?
    • light there is no better color for clouds than pink.
    • argument – umbrellas should be outlawed.
    • thought experiment –what would happen if weather forecasts were randomized and we had no idea what it would be like outside until it happened?
    • translation – listen to your local (radio, online or television) weather forecast and write it in english.
    • quotation – love is the absence of judgment. (his holiness the dalai lama xiv)
    • bonus – write the forecast for the day in your life you enjoyed the most and comment on what effect the weather that day had on your feelings at the time.
  3. friendship
    • deep – are there limits to what you would do for a true friend? would you help them do something that you believed was wrong? save them from persecution even if they had hurt someone?
    • light holding hands is the best thing ever.
    • argument – marriage is just long-term friendship. there’s no reason for ceremonies or paperwork.
    • thought experiment – how far would you go, if you moved to a new place and knew nobody, to ensure your first friend was your ideal platonic partner?
    • translation – listen to or read an extended dialogue between two friends or partners and translate it to english.
    • quotation – the journey is itself my home. (basho)
    • bonus – would this conversation ever happen in an english-speaking culture?
  4. travel
    • deep – in a world where airplanes and cars are turning the planet into an apocalyptic wasteland, is there really an argument to be made anymore for recreational travel?
    • light i believe i can fly.
    • argument – cross-cultural interaction is the only way to prevent war.
    • thought experiment – what would happen if countries no longer existed?
    • translation – select your favorite travel publication, either print or online, and translate the first article whose destination you would like to visit.
    • quotation – to know another you must walk a year with their feet. (traditional native american saying)
    • bonus – write a travel article about your city.
  5. society
    • deep – what is the one word that defines the best approach to society? harmony? peace? tranquility? equality? competition? strength?
    • light darkness is an illusion but light is real.
    • argument – i am simply a mirror of my childhood, bent according to my pain.
    • thought experiment – what would it be like to return to a time before civilization? would we still be human?
    • translation – translate the liner notes for your favorite album at the moment.
    • quotation – go your own way. (lindsey buckingham, fleetwood mac)
    • bonus – write the notes for the album you’d like to make if you had started a band.
  6. equality
    • deep – are all humans equal?
    • light one plus one is three.
    • argument – i’m not unique and neither are you.
    • thought experiment – can a society without competition or greed exist?
    • translation – select a short historical political speech and translate it into informal, everyday english.
    • quotation – no news is good news. (traditional english idiom)
    • bonus – write a short commentary on whether it makes sense to say it in english.
  7. childhood
    • deep – what is the purpose of childhood? does it really matter in an age where all information is available at the touch of a screen?
    • light i miss my stuffed toys.
    • argument – teens are the smartest people alive.
    • thought experiment – given that democracy is a failed experiment because people are greedy, if we restricted voting only to those between 15 and 25, would it be potentially successful?
    • translation – translate the blurb on the back of any book.
    • quotation – kids don’t remember what you try to teach them. they remember what you are. (jim henson)
    • bonus – think about whether the book would work well in english and why that’s the case.
  8. peace
    • deep – is peace possible in the modern world?
    • light flower power.
    • argument – self-interest is the opposite of harmony.
    • thought experiment – if we tried to develop a system of laws based on the assumption that we wouldn’t know what position we would have to occupy in the future, would those laws be fair?
    • translation – select a song you like and write a translation in idiomatic english.
    • quotation – darkness cannot drive out darkness. only light can do that. hate cannot drive out hate. only love can do that. (dr martin luther king jr)
    • bonus – write that song as a formal news story.
  9. school
    • deep – what is the value of being intelligent? educated? culturally informed?
    • light books are better than real life.
    • argument – those who are most intelligent are best suited to make decisions for others.
    • thought experiment – if leaders were required to be highly intelligent, would the world be such a disaster?
    • translation – translate a popular science article into formal english. use one aimed at adults rather than children as the technical terms will be more challenging that way.
    • quotation – education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. (nelson mandela)
    • bonus – translate a short interview with a scientist or philosopher.
  10. faith
    • deep – what were you once told that you now know is not worth believing true?
    • light why is the sky blue?
    • argument – teaching children supernatural ideas as if they were true is immoral.
    • thought experiment – what would your country look like if people didn’t identify themselves and others by their religious affiliation?
    • translation – translate a creation story from your culture into english.
    • quotation – how slowly you walk makes no difference if you don’t stop. (confucius)
    • bonus – write a new version of any creation myth as if it happened when you were born.
  11. adolescence
    • deep – what were you like as a teen? do you regret it? wish you could go back? forget most of it?
    • light lucy in the sky with diamonds.
    • argument – an adult is a person who knows how to think deeply, whether thirteen or thirty. age is irrelevant and those who never learn critical thought should never be considered adults with adult rights and responsibilities.
    • thought experiment – what would happen if human life simply ended at thirty?
    • translation – translate your favorite song from when you were a teen to english.
    • quotation – spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon. (e m forster)
    • bonus – rewrite a song as if it was written in today’s world and explain why it’s different.
  12. politics
    • deep – what is wrong with your country’s political system? what is right? what would you change? how?
    • light the king is dead. long live the king.
    • argument – it is better to live in harmony than be free.
    • thought experiment – what does government really matter if you are safe?
    • translation – translate (at least part of) the wikipedia article about your country’s leader into english.
    • quotation – it is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both. (niccolò machiavelli)
    • bonus – write an article about yourself as if you were head of state.
  13. monkeys
    • deep – is it wise to use monkeys and other primates in medical testing? ethical? moral?
    • light i am a mirror.
    • argument – society’s prohibition of murder must extend to all animal life as there is no biological difference between human, monkey, dog and horse.
    • thought experiment – what would it be like to live in the trees?
    • translation – translate the dialog from a drama where people are talking naturally.
    • quotation – we all want canaan without going through the wilderness. (ravi zacharias)
    • bonus – write your day’s thoughts from the perspective of a monkey.
  14. elephants
    • deep – how does your view of the world, mental and physical, change depending on your size? speed? vulnerability?
    • light all the world’s a stage.
    • argument – those who are strong must protect those who are weak.
    • thought experiment – if you had a flexible nose that could reach to the ground, how would your experience of daily life have to change?
    • translation – translate the “about us” section of a large rail provider or airline’s site in your country.
    • quotation – you are wise, knowing you know nothing. (socrates)
    • bonus – write about your daily life as if it was the “about us” section of a corporate site.
  15. birthdays
    • deep – why does celebration matter?
    • light you’re only as old as you feel.
    • argument – predictability is more important in the long run than pleasure or happiness.
    • thought experiment – if you didn’t know how old you were and nobody else did, either, what would that change about your daily life?
    • translation – translate the first chapter of the first book you were given as a gift.
    • quotation – there are many ways of going forward but only one way of standing still. (franklin d roosevelt)
    • bonus – write the message you would write to yourself on a birthday card for your fifteenth birthday.
  16. furniture
    • deep – why does how you decorate your house matter? what change does it make to your life?
    • light my bed is my castle.
    • argument – if you’re alone, you can feel home anywhere. if you’re with others, you can only feel home somewhere special.
    • thought experiment – what would it be like to live in a house with no furniture but a mat to sleep on and a cushion to sit on?
    • translation – translate the descriptions of several pieces of furniture selling at your favorite home store.
    • quotation – the more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique. (walt disney)
    • bonus – describe yourself as a piece of furniture. would you be a chair? a bed? a sofa? a table? a bookcase?
  17. mountains
    • deep – being above the rest of the world is a huge shift in perspective. what is its impact on you? is that different from your first time on a mountain?
    • light where’s the real highway to hell?
    • argument – recreational chemicals should be outlawed regardless of history and treated the same — alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, heroin, coffee.
    • thought experiment – what would a flat world be like to live in?
    • translation – translate a folk tale into idiomatic english.
    • quotation – i get by with a little help from my friends. (john lennon & paul mccartney)
    • bonus – in some cultures, places like mountains have physical traits. what would you be like as a topographical element?
  18. rivers
    • deep – what was it like the first time you took a boat ride? was it frightening to leave the shore behind? how did it feel when you arrived on land again?
    • light fish are the perfect shape.
    • argument – rivers are like the blood vessels in the human body and must be protected from harm and kept pristine with the same force.
    • thought experiment – what would it be like to live in a world where the only water we encountered was when we drank and washed?
    • translation – translate the dialog from an ad on television or youtube (or your favorite local video provider) into idiomatic english.
    • quotation – imagination is more important than knowledge. (albert einstein)
    • bonus – what do bridges mean to you? literally? figuratively?
  19. pets
    • deep – is childhood experience around other species important for development and empathy? does it matter whether those species are wild or live in your house?
    • light woof. meow. neigh.
    • argument – human control of other animal species should be outlawed to give all life equal status.
    • thought experiment – what would a world controlled by horses, dogs or cats look like with humans as a secondary species?
    • translation – translate the first news article on your national news site.
    • quotation – dogs never bite me. only humans. (marilyn monroe)
    • bonus – what would be your traits if you were to describe yourself in non-human language?
  20. transportation
    • deep – is it important to have a mode of transportation where you can be alone?
    • light getting out of bed is hard. getting back in is harder.
    • argument – standardization is more important than choice.
    • thought experiment – if you could do the work you most desire every day, would your life really be better?
    • translation – translate an ad for a job you’d like to have.
    • quotation – you can have any color you want as long as it’s black. (henry ford, attributed)
    • bonus – describe your life without the ability to do anything other than walk to get places.
  21. protest
    • deep – why has protest never been successful?
    • light quiet makes me happy. loud makes me sad.
    • argument – it is better to follow the rules than to risk anything to change them.
    • thought experiment – if the one thing you think most important to change about your country’s laws was changed, what would be different specifically about your life?
    • translation – translate a page from a religious book.
    • quotation – things do not change. we change. (henry david thoreau)
    • bonus – what’s different about how you think now from when you were twelve?
  22. clothing
    • deep – why does it matter what you wear?
    • light i love hats.
    • argument – to have real choice in fashion, all clothing must be the same cost everywhere.
    • thought experiment – if you had to wear the same thing for the rest of your life, what would it be and how would that feel to you?
    • translation – translate the descriptions of clothing from your favorite designer.
    • quotation – fashion is architecture. (coco chanel)
    • bonus – if you were an item of clothing, what would you be?
  23. shopping
    • deep – what makes shopping fun?
    • light i only have two feet so i only need two shoes.
    • argument – fast fashion is destroying our ability to be satisfied by anything in life.
    • thought experiment – if everything was free but space was limited, what would you have in your bedroom?
    • translation – translate the ad for a recent movie you’d like to see.
    • quotation – buy land. they’re not making it anymore. (mark twain)
    • bonus – describe your route to get to and from your local shopping mall.
  24. music
    • deep – is music really good or just popular?
    • light singing is better than life.
    • argument – music should be free for everyone and arts should be paid for by the state.
    • thought experiment – what would music be like if you couldn’t hear?
    • translation – translate the three most popular songs in your country this week.
    • quotation – music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy. (ludwig van beethoven)
    • bonus – describe how you feel when you dance to music.
  25. dreams
    • deep – what do you want most from life? is it achievable? what would you sacrifice for it?
    • light sleepy.
    • argument – early bedtimes make better people.
    • thought experiment – what would change about your life if you didn’t have to sleep?
    • translation – translate a lullaby.
    • quotation – always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well. (mahatma gandhi)
    • bonus – rewrite it as a political speech or radio broadcast.
  26. work
    • deep – is your daily life happy?
    • light weekends are why you work, right?
    • argument – a life without work isn’t worth staying alive for.
    • thought experiment – if all work was done by computers, would you feel satisfied with your life?
    • translation – translate the last five pages of your favorite book.
    • quotation – art raises its head where creeds relax. (friedrich nietzsche)
    • bonus – did you expect the book’s ending at the beginning? does expectation matter?
  27. truth
    • deep – is honesty important for life or just harmony?
    • light webs of lies snare humans like flies.
    • argument – we live in a post-truth world.
    • thought experiment – what would happen if all politicians were legally required to tell the truth or be executed?
    • translation – translate a popular fairy tale.
    • quotation – truth is beautiful, without doubt, but so are lies. (ralph waldo emerson)
    • bonus – rewrite a politician’s campaign platform as a fairy tale.
  28. fiction
    • deep – what makes a book worth reading?
    • light our stories are what make us human.
    • argument – good fiction is a viable alternative to living in the real world.
    • thought experiment – if virtual reality was indistinguishable from daily life, what would change? would anything?
    • translation – translate the opening voiceover from a video game.
    • quotation – letting your mind play is the best way to solve problems. (bill watterson)
    • bonus – write your routine thoughts from any time in the day as if they were a voiceover script for animation.
  29. art
    • deep – is beauty objective or simply something you have learned to feel?
    • light red, white and blue.
    • argument – art should be free for everyone to see, touch, experience or it is worthless to us as a species.
    • thought experiment – if our experience of images visually could feel as real as having them in reality next to us, would we think differently about the value of artwork and ownership?
    • translation – translate the description of your favorite items in a museum.
    • quotation – what do you own that someday could be thought of as an archaeological artifact?
    • bonus – history is a relentless master. it has no present, only the past rushing into the future. to try to hold fast is to be swept aside. (john f kennedy)
  30. past
    • deep – how do you know what happened when you were little? before you were born? hundreds of years ago?
    • light were you born or did you just start to exist?
    • argument – the past is just what we agree to believe.
    • thought experiment – if someone told you all human history before a hundred years ago was fake, would you be able to convince them they were wrong?
    • translation – look up today in history and select an event to translate from wikipedia or another online source.
    • quotation – what is history but a fable agreed? (napoleon bonaparte)
    • bonus – what is the most memorable day you have experienced? would anyone else understand why it matters?
  31. celebration
    • deep – what’s worth celebrating?
    • light chocolate.
    • argument – life would be far better for everyone if we didn’t have standardized weekdays and weekends, just schedules were we all worked four days a week but different four days for different people.
    • thought experiment – if there were no more candles, what would you use to mark birthday celebrations?
    • translation – open any book you own to a random page. translate that section of the book.
    • quotation – knowing others is intelligence, yourself wisdom. mastering others is strength, yourself power. (lao tzu)
    • bonus – write what you wish happened next in the book you’re reading.
  32. oceans
    • deep – if the world is mostly covered in ocean, why do we live on land?
    • light it ain’t easy bein’ green. (kermit the frog)
    • argument – fish deserve to die no more than humans do therefore fishing is immoral.
    • thought experiment – if we treated our oceans with the same obsessive attention we devoted to our clothes and makeup, what would the world look like?
    • translation – translate a fairy tale told from the perspective of an animal.
    • quotation – whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation. (walter cronkite)
    • bonus – write your daily experience as narrated from that animal’s perspective.
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thank you for reading. your eyes have done me a great honor today.