There are many ways to tell your story - from writing to painting to singing to sitting down with a friend and being vulnerable in sharing who you are. One of my favorite ways is through journaling prompts. These prompts give you a place to begin to find the stories waiting inside you. With writing prompts, you have the opportunity to uncover pieces of your own story that you've forgotten, that surprise you, or even that you've been avoiding.
Prompts are so much fun! They can be light, and they can be deep. And the word "journaling" takes the pressure off. This isn't about writing your memoir or a great work of fiction. This is about putting pen to the pages of a journal and telling your stories.
Here are a few of my favorite prompts to get you started:
I want to remember
This is a great prompt to use when you want to tell a recent story. It helps you capture the pieces of an experience and gives you just enough of a push to drill down to the important moments and feelings. Get into your senses as you gather up the memories you're exploring in your journal.
With this prompt, you might want to make a list or repeat the prompt, like this example from my weekend:
- I want to remember the sound of their laughter as he tucked her into bed.
- I want to remember the look of joy on her face as she crossed the finish line.
- I want to remember the full Harvest Moon shining through the clouds as I stood on the front steps.
- I want to remember the delight of hearing him singing "On the Road Again" when he thought we weren't paying attention.
- I want to remember the quiet truths that linger when we let ourselves be loved.
This is a prompt that invites you to explore the past, present, and future, but it leaves the subject open ended. You might explore who you were, who you are, and who you are becoming. You might look at a relationship, dreams you once had and how they've evolved, places you've lived, beliefs you once had, and so on. This prompt can be a rich playground for so many stories.
Write a letter to yourself
Imagine letters full of the kindness and wisdom you most need. This is what this prompt is all about.
I have a simple notebook that I fill with letters to myself (often paired with self-portraits I print out at home and then stick in my journal with washi tape). This practice gives me a safe space to just show up as myself. These letters are sometimes a pep talk. Other times I ask myself a question and then answer it. Some letters are full of forgiveness and deep truths.
One of my favorite prompts to give the women I work with is to start a letter that simply says, "Dear girl..." and then just start writing the words you most need to hear. Before you begin, you might want to pause and just close your eyes and get present in your body, heart, and mind. Let the day drop away so you can listen. Then open your eyes and start writing.
See what comes up. Try to let go of judgment and keep your pen moving across the page. Then when you're done, notice if there are any themes or specific phrases that stand out to you. Those phrases could become prompts for your next letter.
A secret dream
Writing about a secret dream can be a beautiful way to unearth the longings you have inside you so that you can begin to not only name but also claim them. This can open up new possibilities because these dreams are no longer hiding in the secret places inside you but are dancing on the pages of your journal.
I come from
"I come from" is a prompt I first learned in a workshop with Susan Wooldridge. Susan wrote the wonderful book Poemcrazy. If you feel the call to write poetry or simply tell your story through more lyrical writing, this is one you need for your book shelf.
"I come from" can be a prompt that digs deep into where you were born and the land of the people who came before you. It can also invite you to look at where you live now. You might want to make a list, repeat the prompt like the "I want to remember" example above, or write this prompt across the top of your page and see where it takes you. This is one of those prompts I love returning to again and again.
One of the creative prompts I love that grounds me in my everyday life is to act like an observer of the world and of myself. I get curious. I try to just notice without judgment, without a need to label or claim something as true or false.
A great journaling prompt for this is Inside/Outside. Here's how you use it: Begin to pay attention to the world through this lens:
Inside I notice...
Outside I notice...
Inside I see...
Outside I see...
Inside I feel...
Outside I feel...
and so on
Let yourself find a rhythm with this idea of seeking the differences (and sameness) of your experiences with "outside/inside."
Then put pen to the page and write, letting this prompt take you down a path of unearthing evidence of who and where you are.
In your journal, make a list of the things/people/places that bring you joy.
Think about the simple joys you experience in your daily life. Reflect on the bigger moments/events that have brought joy into your life. Think about the younger you and what brought you joy years ago. Keep writing and writing. Return to this list often and add to it. You could even fill an entire spiral notebook with all your joys.
One cool thing is that this list becomes its own list of writing prompts for you to use for future journaling.
I hope these journaling prompts give you a place to begin to dive into your own journal. May the practice of telling your stories support you in creating a self-care practice for yourself.
COME ALONG TO TELL IT: COLLAGE