Probably the two most common methods of journaling are freewriting (also known as stream of consciousness or free-intuitive writing) and springboards (also known as prompts). Since one of the most common hinderances to journaling is “writer’s block” or a lack of anything to write about, I will deal with springboards first.
Springboards, or prompts, are ideas to help you get journaling. They can be a word, a song, a quote, a question or a picture — anything that gets your mind working. At the beginning of the week I posted one question for each day, a question that is designed to get you thinking and hopefully writing about what comes to mind. The mind can be a tricky thing. I don’t often pursue a stray thought very far unless I start writing about it. Then, I can be quite surprised where I can end up! When you get lost in the writing process, that is when the things you’ve been avoiding can come out. It is the time when two and two come together to make four and you experience an epiphany about something you’ve been pondering. When I get writing, I can get to a point where things begin to form on the page that I haven’t even consciously acknowledged yet and I gain valuable insights.
Start a springboards journal. Get a pocket-sized notebook to carry with you and jot down things you see or hear that catch your interest — words, pictures, sentences, quotations, etc. Then when you sit down to journal, flip through and pick one. Take turns going down the list or just flipping the pages and sticking your finger on a spot to pick which prompt you use. Perhaps start with this one:
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” — Socrates
Captured moments are also known as vignettes, or small snatches of life — just like a photograph. Captured moments are glimpses of intense feeling or treasured experiences. Often these are a first crush, first kiss, first dance, a baptism or graduation — anything that left a lasting impression on you and you’d like to relive that moment again and again. Or even share it with someone else.
Sometimes the best way to do a captured moment is to use a photo as a springboard. Find an old photo of an important event in your life. Stare at it and analyze it minutely. Try to put yourself back in the situation. Who was there? What did you feel like? What was happening? What sensations were there — how did your clothing feel, was it hot or cold, what sounds did you hear? What scents did you smell? What things were said? When did this happen? Continue to ask yourself questions based on “who, what, where, when, why and how.” Add to it as new memories come to mind. Ask others who where there some of the same questions to add to the account. Tuck it away in your journal for later enjoyment.
Journaling can also be used as a tool for creative writing — whether it be fiction or non-fiction. What makes or breaks writing are the characters. Are they believable? Can the reader relate to them? Doing character sketches in your journal can help make you more observant of the world around you, and can be very revealing when you do one about yourself! To make it easy, start out with a fill-in chart:
Male or Female?
Shape of face
Other distinguishing marks
Type of body/build
What things will get the character angry?
How does the character act for each of those emotions?
How does the character deal with these emotions?
What is the character’s favorite saying?
What quirks does the character have?
What does the character to that is annoying?
What nervous gestures does the character make?
What gestures does the character have when angry?
Does the character make friends easily? Why?
Is the character outgoing or withdrawn? Why?
Is the character serious or jovial?
Does the character have a positive or negative outlook on life? Why?
Start collecting a series of character sketches about those you know best. Including yourself.