#5 A Writing Exercise: Keeping Your Journal Moving With Prompts
Many people write in journals sporadically and turn to their writing only in the worst of times.Writing can be incredibly comforting and probably the number one use of journals that I hear about in psychotherapy and journaling conferences is to vent overwhelming feelings.If this is all the journaling you ever do, it will be well worth it.But if you feel like using your writing in a broader way and aren’t sure how to go about that, there are many resources to explore.You can start with the Resource List in this section of MySingleSpace, and you can also try the idea of writing a few prompts for yourself.
Writing prompts are anything that launches the writing process in a novel direction.Usually they are quotes or quirky questions that get you started.And usually, once you start writing, the ideas build on themselves and you end up somewhere that you would not have predicted.That’s when you find your writing is actually furthering your development and not just maintaining your sanity.
One great way to find a prompt is to find an inspiring quote.A quotation book or web-site can usually set off ideas rapidly.If you do a web-search for Quotations, there are dozens of web-sites where you can search by topic, or even put in quotes of your own and discuss them with other people.Another good source is daily life.This takes a little time and collecting, but can be a fun project.For a few days, carry a memo book or electronic memopad, and jot down anything you notice – a pigeon on the sidewalk, a tree, a headline, an expression of a person on a bus, someone’s shoes, etc.Just list one-liners of things that catch your attention and later, pick one to write about or pick a few a make a poem or haiku or word collage to start a journal entry.Visual items make great prompts too, so stay alert for pictures in papers or magazines or even catalogs.An internet image search is a great start also.Pick a topic and look for an inspiring image or try the random method and just write about maybe the fourth image on the page or the last one or the one that has the most red in it.The idea is to find the stimulus that gets the flow of writing started.
My favorite prompts are often odd questions.Sometimes it’s hard to think of questions for yourself that make you see things differently, but it helps to purposefully try to shift your perspective.Try to think of how things would be different if something was absent from your life that you are used to.Try writing lists of things you feel a particular way about, good or bad qualities of things or reasons.Lists are great idea jump-starters.Or try the alternate universe idea where something is different in some strange profound way, like if everyone dressed in huge black boxes with eyeholes so that we couldn’t tell what anyone looked like or if trees spoke or something.You don’t have to enter the Twilight Zone, but try to think in new ways about old subjects or issues.
To give examples, here are some prompts broadly about the topic of living single.Some may be of interest to you now, and they may also give you ideas of ways to inspire your own writing to take new directions.
1.If marriage was abolished in America and made illegal from this day forward, how would your life change?
2.“It is your work in life that is the ultimate seduction.”Pablo Picasso.
Do you agree with that?What is YOUR ultimate seduction?
3.Think of what the phrase “being a single person” meant to you at different stages of your life.Write a one-line definition that reflects how you thought of it for each decade of your life.
4.What one person or media source or institution has most contributed to difficulties you have about being a single person or thinking about being one?Why that person or source?
5.Over about the last week, think of the most fun thing you’ve done by yourself, the most fun thing you’ve done with one other person and the most fun thing you’ve done in a group. Do these activities have anything in common?What characteristics of the activities are unique to each interpersonal setting?If you really haven’t enjoyed anything in one of the categories, could you think of a way that you would be able to?Why or why not?
The important thing with writing is to let it be your own and tailor your personal writing to your personal purposes.Hopefully, some of these ideas for writing prompts will help you broaden your repertoire for ways to do that.