Site icon Kathryn McClatchy

What Should I Write About?

Can you think of any aspect of life that wouldn’t benefit from some intentional thought, planning, or reflection? I can’t either. That’s probably why you know successful doctors, teachers, entrepreneurs, coaches, creatives, scientists, friends, and family who are committed journal writers. Just in case you haven’t seen the research and articles about the benefits of keeping a journal, I’ll link some of my recent favorites here:

There are just as many ways of keeping a journal as there are ways to create art or raise children. It all depends on your personality, purpose, and time committed. There is no right or wrong way to journal, and you are free to change your style or time commitment as needed.

“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter. And lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” ~~Jack London

For the past seven years, I have journaled daily using a combination of all of the above in a three-page, college-rule, spiral notebook format. I write my highs and lows of my life, record special events of our family, document dreams, whine about my health, list what I’m grateful for, describe my surroundings, plan story plots and character bios, brain dump, prioritize action items, write out prayers, review books/blogs/podcasts, and document the weather and how it affects my health. For the past month, I’ve kept my notebook by my bed, and started writing upon waking—often before finding my glasses or having both eyes fully open. I’m a hard core night owl (or “wolf” if you follow Michael Breus, PhD as he outlines in The Power of When), so have been shocked by the deep thoughts and creative ideas that pour out of me.

My son’s girlfriend posted a picture on Facebook of a prepared journal which had a different writing prompt on each page. In the comments, my son had written “Don’t buy it! Mom can make you something better.” I looked at the journal, and its proud list price, and agreed with my son. After more than thirty years of keeping a journal, and a number of years creating writing prompts for my students, I’m pretty efficient at coming up with topics.

The teacher in me, however, would rather teach you how to come up with your own topics. It doesn’t matter if you journal with words or images, longhand or digitally, in a secret diary or online blog, if you make entries daily, weekly, or sporadically, if you have a set theme or wait for inspiration… at some point everyone finds the creative well momentarily dry. Usually one of the following general ideas will prime the pump and start your own creativity flowing again. Use these to create your own prompts for journaling or blogging.

One of my favorite experiences, which never failed to amaze me, was giving the exact same prompt to all 150 of my senior English students, and every piece of writing or drawing turned in would be as different and individual as the students themselves. I also noticed that I could give the same prompt to the same students in different grading periods or semesters and the individual would turn in very different responses. Try giving yourself the same prompt every Monday for a couple months just to see what happens. Or use the same prompt every day for a week, but challenge yourself to freewrite on day one, write a piece of flash fiction on day two, create visual art on day three, write a poem or song lyric on day four, and a childhood memory or memoir piece on day five. Then analyze your results and what you learned from the experiment on day six.

If you have any favorite techniques you fall back on when you aren’t sure what to write, please share in the comments. If you keep a journal, I’m curious to know what format you use.

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