This week, I’ve taken out my journal again.
My son, Gabriel, graduated from high school last week, and is now traveling in Argentina with a friend. And I am very emotional.
I find it hard to even understand all the things I’m feeling: there are things that I need to process for myself about who I am, time, who I was, who I want to become, what I miss about the past (as hard as it was, I loved having little kids), changing relationship, hopes, fears, dreams.
Going back to my journal helps me process all of these competing voices.
When Gabriel and Simone were babies and toddlers, I kept good journals about what they were doing and how it was to be a mother of young kids.
As a young mother, I was both writing for myself in the moment and writing for my future self and the future self of my kids, who would look back on our writing.
Now when I read those early journals, we both are and are not the same people we were.
What is the self? In some ways, that is what writing is all about, at least for me: it’s an invitation and dialogue with the self, a way to explore what selfhood is, in its many aspects, and then, when we are ready, a way share that interior life with others.
But first, before we share our writing, writing is about discovery. the novelist EM Forester famously quipped, “how do I know what I think until I see what I say?” Often the best way to understand what we think and feel is to write it down.
A journal allows you to tell your story, and in doing so you come to understand yourself and live more comfortably within yourself.
Over the past weeks, I’ve had a number of students ask me about how to keep a journal, so I created six journal prompts.
Whether you always keep a journal or never keep a journal, you might have a good time exploring these prompts.
Six Journal prompts for adults
- Think back on yourself ten or twenty years ago. How have you changed? List three things you have lost and five things you have gained.
- Imagine yourself ten or twenty years from now. Describe how you would like to be described: What will you be doing? What will you be proud of? How will you feel? Now write about how you can act today to make it more likely that you get to that point.
- What is the biggest question that you have at the moment? (Don’t overthink it). Write about the first thing that comes to mind. Write about it in three sections. In the first section, write all your questions and everything that you don’t know, all of your confusion, fear and frustration. In the second section, pretend that you need to give a lecture in which you are providing wisdom and guidance for people who have your question. Even if you don’t have the answers, pretend you do and write about it. In the third section, integrate your first two experiences.
- Record one important aspect of your life at this moment. Describe it in such a way that someone who didn’t know you would be able to enter into your life experiences.
- Write in detail about five things that you appreciated today. Be as detailed and specific as possible. Recording the things that we appreciate builds our appreciation muscles and has been documented to make people happier, feel better about themselves and more compassionate and generous towards others.
- Use the following six random words and write whatever comes to mind. This exercises helps build your creativity, gets you out of your regular thought patterns and often leads to interesting new insights. lavender, blanket, trace, pin, float, lemon
Even if you have a journal writing system that works for you, I encourage you to try something new and see what happens. And if you haven’t written in a journal for a while, I also encourage you to try it.
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