I have written before about the old practice of journaling and why people (including myself) maintain them. I have also shared how journaling helps sustain both a reading habit and a writing habit. And I have described how the diaries/journals of writers can be like writing instruction manuals if read properly.
My own journal-writing evolves each year. In the last few years, I’ve become more purposeful in the thoughts I dwell on and commit to words, even if those words are private. Our thoughts inform our character, speech, behaviors, and actions. In particular, I have focused on ensuring that, before I write about anything else, I write on these few things to get my day started right (yes, I start my day with my journal):
— One thing I am grateful for: This should be something specific and deserves at least 3-4 sentences. There are rather mixed opinions out there on gratitude journaling but, for me, this has proved to be hugely beneficial.
— One quote of the day: I tend to pick quotes by writers I admire. It could be from my ongoing collection stored in Evernotes or it could be something I look up by theme/topic. These days, I add the quotes to my Instagram too (so feel free to follow me there if you like.)
— One journal prompt: This is where I freewrite on a question or theme I want to explore further. Generally, it pertains to my reading or writing work-in-progress but, often, it might simply be something I jotted down earlier to revisit/unpack when time allowed.
So here is a new monthly series on journal prompts for those who like or want to start this practice. Of course, it helps if you create your own but, sometimes, we all need that little nudge to think outside our own box. If these do not appeal, there are plenty out there in google-land.
I suggest doing your journal-writing electronically so you can use keywords or hashtags and then revisit easily to write more at a later date. I wrote longhand till 2014 and never thought I would manage to switch to electronic journaling but, well, here we are.
And, finally, give yourself about 20-30 minutes to freewrite with each prompt. If you get stuck, just write about why the question/topic has you stumped.
NOTE: There is no particular theme to these though I might get more organized in future months. And we’re starting the year off with easy ones. I plan to make them progressively more interesting too.
- What are the creative projects starting to bloom inside of you? What can you do to acknowledge them?
- What about you surprises people most often and why?
- If you had a magic box of endless gifts, what would you label it and why? Pick 1 word or phrase.
- What part of your life feels really good/bad right now? What can you do to maximize/minimize it?
- What did you do yesterday that really moved things forward?
- What is the best thing you have read this week so far and why?
- What project are you resisting from going deeply into? Why?
- List 20 things that represent ‘empowered’ (or any other word you’d like) to you.
- List 20 things you love to do, big and small.
- When was the last time you learned something really hard to do? What did you gain from the experience?
- List 20 things you want to stop worrying about.
- Who are the writers/people who give you the courage to write/be whatever/whomever you want?
- Write out the best or the worst day of your life.
- Write about a day you’d like to forget.
- Imagine yourself in a different century and describe an average day in your life.
- Which character from a book, TV show, or movie would you most like to meet and why?
- If you could be a character in any book, TV show, or movie, who would you be and why?
- Who is the person from history that you would most like to meet and talk to? Why? What would you like to ask?
- If you wrote a book, TV show, or movie, what would it be about? Who would you cast in it?
- If you could go back in time anywhere and “anywhen,” where/when would you go and why?
- If you could go forward in time anywhere and “anywhen,” where/when would you go and why?
- What law would you like to see enacted which would help people? How would it help?
- Write about a time you were talked into something and you regretted it.
- Write about a time you were accused of something you did not do.
- Write about the funniest thing that ever happened to you.
- What would you pack in your suitcase if you could not go home again?
- If you could only speak/write twenty nouns for the rest of your life, what words would head your list and why?
- If you could only speak/write twenty verbs for the rest of your life, what words would head your list and why?
- Write about the hardest choice you have made this month so far.
- Write about one traditional ritual you would change from your community/culture.
- Write about two things that your family has taught you.
Let me end with a bit from one of my favorite journal writers, Virginia Woolf:
But what is more to the point is my belief that the habit of writing thus for my own eye only is good practice. It loosens the ligaments. Never mind the misses and the stumbles.