I have just been reading Writer Magazine’s June 2011 interview of Gail Godwin, regarding her recently released The Making of a Writer, Volume 2: Journals, 1963-1969. Godwin’s purpose in publishing her edited journal entries is to inspire other writers by sharing her journey and growth as a writer, as well as how she mines her journals for story ideas.
Godwin made several statements during the interview that resonate strongly with me, and I’d like to share them with you. She speaks of journal writing as “an ongoing conversation” about the themes that are most important to us, about art, how to live our lives, what it means to be human. And how the themes that run through our journals signal parts of us that need attention, or “working and reworking.”
I have often said we write in our journals, not only to help us process our emotions and thoughts in the current moment, but also for the future, so we can look back and say, “There is where I have been.” Godwin confirms this idea and highlights the importance of recording details we think are mundane because, later, we need those details to remember who we were at the time, exactly what happened, and what was going on in the outside world.
She says, “The longer you keep journals, you realize you have a commitment to the self … So you become more and more responsible about putting in the kinds of things that one forgets–how people talk, how rooms look, just trivial things that make a moment unique.”
This week’s journaling prompts will help you give context to current life events, as well as help you write more complete, complex, and descriptive journal entries — today and tomorrow.
- Write about the most important issue you’re dealing with in your life right now. What’s at stake? How does this issue or problem affect other areas of your life? What are some possible solutions?
- If anyone else is involved, write a passage of dialog (remembered or imagined), discussing this issue with this other person or people. Describe expressions, tone of voice, and setting for the conversation.
- What is going on in the outside world — political, social, spiritual — that affects how you think about this issue?
- In diary form, write a list of everything that you did or experienced today (or yesterday, if you’re writing in the morning). For example: Got up at 6:30; ate strawberries and eggs for breakfast; wore my favorite red flowered dress to work; beautiful sunny day, wished I was outside instead of inside an air-conditioned office; got angry at my boss … and so on. Repeat this prompt once a week.
- Read a previous journal entry — preferably one written at least a year or more ago. What do you wish you knew about that day or that situation that you didn’t include in your entry? How could you have provided more context? Include those kinds of contextual details in all of your journal entries this week. At the end of the week look back and think about what else you could include that might help your future self.
- Freewrite for ten minutes about what, for you, is the greatest benefit you receive from journal writing.
- In your journal, write a real-life scene from your life today. Don’t think anything is worth recording? Think again … the scene doesn’t need to be dramatic or emotional. It could be a conversation at the kitchen table, a chance encounter with a bird, a moment of reflection looking out a window, an interaction with a child. Include as many details as you can.
Finally, I invite you to share by leaving a comment below: What is the most important thing you learned about yourself or your writing by engaging with these journaling prompts?