By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler
There are many reasons why people keep journals and it only takes a few moments to “get something off your chest,” reach a decision, record a special time, or capture a moment. You need not be a “good writer;” journaling is a relaxed activity. Our blogger, Karen, even likened blogging to a more modernized approach to writing!
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In Part One of this series (Click here to read Write Away: “How to Journal” Part One), we gathered the materials we need to get jump-started on our way to journaling. Then we looked at where, when, and how to begin recording our thoughts. Finally, we set about starting our writing from lists and “seed phrases.” ‘CCBLITTLE’ shared that she tries to write every morning before the rest of her family wakes up because it helps her start the day feeling more connected than if she just rushes headlong into her to-do list.” She also keeps a stack of favorite books nearby to “seed” her thoughts when she wants to be a bit more introspective.
Now, here is additional inspiration and suggestions for getting your thoughts flowing and down on paper! I pick up with #4 of 5 components to the journaling process.
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” H.D. Thoreau, Author/Poet/Philosopher
4) More Inspiration
Looking/staring at a treasured object or an old photograph may bring inspiration. All objects have a story. You can create a ‘structure’ around which to write about them – a time period, details, people present around you. These are your memories … a link between past, present, and future.
*Your Turn: Go on a “treasure hunt” around your home – I guarantee you’ll find something to write about!
Many different stories can come from the same object, experience, or picture. Additionally, just one of those can trigger many memories surrounding it. It can further jump-start our writing on many different topics – all stemming from that one thing or experience.
Looking at objects or pictures is also a useful tool by which to trigger our memories and can even give us a great story idea. By using “clustering,” or story mapping, we can generate a list of ideas that can lead us to individual stories or one story which is a composite of those stories mingled together.
*Your Turn: Take a blank piece of paper and draw a circle in the center. Now draw several connecting lines outward from the perimeter to other circles. Leave room inside each circle to list a few words. In the center circle list the name of the object or picture you chose. In each of the outlying circles, list a word or even a few words that come to mind as you look at it. Be sure to use your 5 senses if you have an object! There it is … the beginnings of your story!
You can also create a timeline as inspiration for writing about a specific time in your life if that is the direction your journaling is taking you. Throughout our lives, we experience events and happenings that shape us. Some are dramatic – a loss, a powerful life lesson. They impact us not only in that moment but over time as well, and change us and our lives permanently, whether for better or for worse. Some are less notable – simply a brief “Ah ha!” moment that we process quickly and take with us on the rest of life’s journey. Often these experiences confront us with a decision to be made – a ‘right or wrong,’ a ‘left or right.’ And these turning points can be major or minor. They can have a big impact on our lives or a small one.
Turning Points can be categorized and broken down into three general life stages:
Childhood (birth to approximately 12 years old)
Adolescence (approximately 13 – 21)
Adult Years (21 to present)
Personal narratives can be generated from any of the ways you get your ideas. As you go through your life, you are always writing “the next chapter.” All of your experiences and interactions (no matter how seemingly small and insignificant) are part of, and have a place in, your story. All of us have a story to tell – one that is important and valuable. If we leave our stories untold, we may never know what kind of a lasting impact they can have on someone’s life outside of our own.
*Your Turn: Choose one timeline from above to write about. Try to write uninterrupted for at least 15 minutes.
“The World is a great book, of which they who never stir from home read only a page.” St. Augustine, Scholar/Philosopher
5) Some Final Seeds and Lists for the road!
For once in my life… A current obsession…
A childhood pleasure … Once upon an autumn time…
A road not taken… A favorite meal…
Once I traveled… At this very moment…
*By taking a Seed and “entering into the scene” we have an opportunity to expand on it. As an example, use one of the following Seeds. Remember to use vivid imagery!
My mother gave me…
An old pair of shoes…
*Nouns preceded by an adjective can also serve as a Seed:
The gold leaves…
The empty bowl…
I delight in… I like most to…
Home is… All things chocolate…
You should be off to a good start now!
Feel free to share more of your journaling time ideas with us – we’d love to read them!
In one of my previous blogs, “It’s the Little Things That Matter,” I promised I would show you the last page of the journal I kept while at a remote ecumenical retreat center in Wyoming. As you can read, below, this was a time of great upheaval and pain in my life, yet I found that attending a spiritual retreat and journaling about my experience brought a sense of healing and closure so I could move on with the next chapter in my life.
Here it is – enjoy your writing time!