A Heartfelt Journaling worksheet
Here are some reminders of the exercises we do in my journal writing workshops so that you can do them again later.
You don't have to have done the workshop to use these either - just print this page out, tuck it into your journal and see where the prompts and suggestions take you.
1. The questions we need to ask ourselves: When we sit down to write something, sometimes we just don’t know where to start. That is whey, when I start to record something in my journal, I ask myself these three simple questions, and write from there: Who am I? Why am I here? What matters?
You can ask the additional question: What is my purpose in doing this?
We are not often encouraged to ask such deep questions, which is why the exercise is so valuable.
(This idea is inspired by G. Lynn Nelson's very good book, Writing and Being)
2. Taking action: Write a list of the things in your life that are unsatisfactory. After you have a good list, cast an eye over it and see what item in particular catches your eye. now start a new page in your journal with this item as a heading, and start listing ways you cold solve this problem, or work towards a solution.
3. Let's look at progress: Cast your mind back over the past 12 months and see what areas you have made progress in in your life – it can be in really tiny areas.
But what do you feel better about now than you did 12 months ago?
4. Choose some solitude: Using Stephanie Dowrick's Intimacy and Solitude as inspiration, go away somewhere with your journal for half a day or more. Choose to be alone, and to spend your time writing in your journal. I would suggest the Botanic garden (the fern house is great) or the Manly or Parramatta ferries. Pack a sandwich and a bottle of water and conduct the world's cheapest personal retreat.
5. What is your creative ambition? List the creative projects you would like to complete in the next year or so, things you have always dreamt of doing, or been curious about. What are the obstacles in the path towards working on them? What are the vital steps to achieving this ambition? (I suggest you read Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit for inspiration here, and also The Wind in the Willows).
6. Keep a daily record: The daily log is the most basic form of journal writing an it is always the thing we can come back to. I suggest you keep it in bullet-point form. I have a superstitious thing about making it 12 points only. No reason for it, apart from the fact that 12 is often considered a very significant number. But knowing it’s only 12 can rein it in a bit, actually giving you more freedom and less fear. Structure sometimes does that.
Though simple, this is a remarkable exercise, and it is amazing just how much you can record, and how much you can increase your memory by doing it.
You can jot down anything you like - it doesn’t have to be in any particular order or in any beautiful prose. For example:
“Cat asleep behind door, afraid of mower.”
“Three young men, tattooed and in high spirits, digging deep holes on the beach while their girlfriends watched and laughed. Why were they digging?”
Read Joyce Chapman's beautiful book Journaling for Joy.
7. Make a list of your principles: What are you committed to in your life at the moment.
Just two or three of your principles, but make this a work in progress.
What ideas shape your life? What are you certain of?
8. Establish a kindness account: It isn’t to keep tabs on what people owe you – that can’t be a part of it at all.
Remember how often I have told you that the most important thing about establishing a dynamic creative life is being a giver and creating a supportive creative environment for other people.
So, start up this account in your journal and keep it updated.
Write down the last five kindnesses you have received. Next to each one record how they made you feel.
Now write down the last 5 kindnesses you have done for other people. Next to each, write down how they reacted.
You want to be building this list, and noting down the responses you get.
There is really strong research that shows that being kind to others, with no expectation of reward, has enormous positive effects on us. Of course, Buddhism has always said this, and I have seen its effects in my own creative life.