Tag Archive | journal prompts

Write Away! : “How to Journal” Part Two

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

Photo Credit: Flickr.com, by buechertiger

Photo Credit: Flickr.com, by buechertiger

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!

Seeds:

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

Waiting

*Nouns preceded by an adjective can also serve as a Seed:

The gold leaves

The empty bowl

Lists:

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!

The culmination of a powerful and healing retreat

The culmination of a powerful and healing retreat

 

“Write Away: How to Journal”

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”  T.S. Eliot, Poet

Have you ever been really upset and wanted to “get something off your chest”–without actually telling somebody? Or been confused about which decision to make or direction to turn in your life? Perhaps you have simply wanted to record a special time, or capture a moment you witnessed, preserving it in your mind forever.

All of these reasons and more are why some people choose to keep a journal. Others may feel they don’t have the time or inclination, or believe they aren’t a “good writer.” However, it really only takes just a few moments to journal and the best part is there is no experience required!

If you have ever considered putting your thoughts to paper, there are many ways to journal. There are also several components to this process – which is not really a process at all; it is indeed an easy-going and relaxed activity.

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About 15 years ago while living in Tallahassee, Florida, I saw a ‘Life Stories’ workshop for women offered. Since I am a writer I was curious, and the description sounded intriguing, so I signed up. To my surprise, I found that women who were not writers or didn’t necessarily find writing interesting had also come!

The workshop was offered by Katya Taylor who had a Master of Education and simply liked to journal and write. She also knew how to inspire and teach others to do it. Her workshop was amazing, as well as remarkably inspirational and healing. She encouraged us to share her methods and spread the word, so to speak, and about 3 years ago I developed a course curriculum for a writing workshop using Katya’s teachings as a beginning point.

The most important thing I learned from these workshops is that everyone’s story is important and worth sharing. At the beginning of the workshop Katya said, “Every time a person dies, a library burns.” I couldn’t agree more, so here are some basic journaling concepts to keep in mind when you think about putting your pen to paper – and preserving your library and life!

Write Away!

We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already.”  J.K. Rowling, Author

1)In the beginning…

I know this famous author scrawled the beginnings of her Harry Potter series books on napkins. And, I encourage always being ready to jot down a spur-of-the-moment idea. However, you may wish to keep these more “stable” items handy:

+Notebook (for jotting down anything you’d like to remember)

+Writing Journal (make it special – one you will want to open again)

+Pencils and Pens (for writing – and illustrating!)

*Now that I have shared this suggestion, it is your turn to get jumpstarted on your way to journaling. So take a moment to gather at least one writing implement and find one small notebook, notepad, or journal you can stash in your purse or bag.

It takes courage to grow up and become who you truly are.” E.E. Cummings, Poet and Painter

Journals come in a wide variety of forms.

Journals come in a wide variety of forms.

2) Writing tools, spaces, and time

The place where you write generally does not matter but should be somewhere you are comfortable, and where you can focus and write undisturbed. The time of day you choose to write may vary. Sometimes, you will get a brainstorm unexpectedly and want to write wherever you are – hence, the use of a napkin!

Journals come in many forms, as well as shapes and sizes.

*Your Turn: Look around your house to identify the place where you can write without interruption. Also, as much as possible (I’m thinking especially about anyone else who has a 3 year old at home!) determine a general time when you can write. Is that in the evening, when everyone else has gone to sleep as it is for me? Or are you an early riser who sneaks out of bed before everyone else begins stirring? Can you snatch a few moments in the middle of your day? Finally, choose where you will record your writing – now you have a good excuse to visit that cute little book and gift shop in town!

Everyday courage has few witnesses. But yours is no less noble because no drum beats before you and no crowds shout your name.”  Robert Louis Stevenson, Novelist/Poet/Essayist

3) Jump-Starting Your Writing

Most writing comes from memories and experiences. We can “jump-start” our writing by re-connecting with those times through pictures, objects, imagery, our 5 senses, and phrases (what Katya called “Seeds”). Many times Seeds generate writing from a part of our life – our writing is just a ‘tidbit’ from a bigger picture that can eventually become a Narrative.

There are many ways to begin a journal entry. Keeping lists is a good start.

*One running list I keep is of phrases and famous quotations I come across and like. I use them to inspire my writing and thoughts. My latest favorite quote is: “The best way out is always through.”  Robert Frost

*Your Turn: Start a timer for one minute. On any sheet of paper, list as many ideas you can come up with to finish the list phrase I love to

Next, choose one item from your list to expand and write upon for 5 minutes.

If you have something on your mind (and even if you don’t), try writing from a ‘seed phrase.’ It is a little like a sentence starter from which many of us wrote essays in school. These are really just “writing prompts” and brainstorming! A few examples:

  • Once I found…
  • I remember a room…
  • Looking back I…
  • On a sunny day I like to…
  • A favorite garment…

*Your Turn: Pick one Seed from the list above and write for 5 minutes uninterrupted. See what you come up with!

You are now on your way to journaling! In part 2 of this series, I will provide you with several easy ways to get inspired to expand your writing further.

In the meantime, please share your experiences with any of the above activities and I will be happy to incorporate them into the next blog ~ Happy writing!