Between emails and social media posts, many of us write every day. But when was the last time you sat down to journal away from a screen? Journaling can be a great tool — both for creative writing as well as for processing our feelings. Even if you don’t aspire to be a published author, putting pen to paper regularly helps memory skills. A study from the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center showed that the group of people who read and write the most (compared to other study participants) were able to slow their memory decline by 32 percent.
Some aspiring writers may feel dread when staring at the blank page, not knowing what to write. Others aren’t sure how to start. Whether you’re interested in adding more journaling to your daily routine, staying sharp, or sitting down to begin a memoir, here are a few writing prompts to get you started.
Write Your Senses
Look out your window or take a walk through a park: the sun may be shining, the wind may be blowing, a few friends may be gathered on a picnic blanket. Nature teems with bright colors and movement. Focus on these senses, then write down your observations. What do you see? Hear? Smell? Carry a small notepad or even an index card to jot down your thoughts. Sometimes, these observations can connect to memories or personal anecdotes to inspire your writing. This exercise of surrounding yourself with nature — sometimes called forest bathing — can also have a calming effect as it creates a meditative state by focusing on the present moment.
Write Like Your Favorite Author
This writing prompt is for the bibliophiles. Take a look at your bookcase. Which authors’ work stands out to you? Flip through a few titles. Does the author write about magical creatures, or a strange new world? What’s their writing style? Turn to your own journal and write about your day as if you were that author. Hemingway, for instance, famously wrote sparse sentences. In contrast, Jane Austen wrote more complex sentences and focused on dialogue. This can be a fun exercise to challenge your critical thinking and writing skills.
Work Out a Problem
Imagine explaining a predicament to your best friend. What details would you mention? How would you describe the other people involved? You can write out the situation any way you’d like, from bullet points to long paragraphs. Writing down a problem can help us come up with solutions; it can also help us feel better. Once you start writing, you may find your stress levels reduced, thanks to the processing that happens when we write. And after the past two years of tumult, your brain may thank you for it.
Capture a Moment of Dialogue
Keep your ears open for conversations around you as you go grocery shopping, walk your dog, or meander around your neighborhood. Are there any clever turns of phrase that catch your attention? Do they speak in long sentences or staccato ones? Try writing the dialogue down, and use it to start a creative-writing piece. Or you can use it to jumpstart your own memories. Was the way they were speaking familiar? Who do they remind you of?
Whatever the end goal, every bit of writing starts with just one word. Journaling is a low-pressure, low-cost, creative hobby that absolutely anyone can try.
Featured photo credit: Halfpoint/ iStock