Journalling Through a Time of Corona 9

Last week we looked at reviewing our journal-writing. This week, I want to be a bit more forward-facing and think about opening up possibilities in our lives by using questions in our journals – the ones we pose and the ones that prompt us.

Questions can help us explore what we think, how we feel, our hopes and dreams, what matters most to us and what’s really going on in us. Questions are not necessarily there to be sorted with a definite answer. They’re there to help us to explore something more deeply.

Using a question as a prompt can generate more open-ended, speculative, intuitive writing than starting with a statement. Try writing from What have I noticed today? as opposed to Today I noticed – and see if it has a different feel.. 

One of my favourite question-prompts is:  What do you know now that you will find out in a year’s time? This is taken from Nancy Kline’s book Time to Think. It’s a book for organisations rather than journallers, but it does include some great exercises around thinking things through, listening – to self and others, and digging down to what she called the incisive question.

Her question-prompt may seem odd, but it is effective. It takes the idea that there are things we already have some awareness of, but are not paying attention to. It may that we don’t want to, or perhaps the issue is only just starting to emerge within us. 

We’re often encouraged to challenge ourselves with the question-prompt What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? The researcher and writer Brené Brown, who has done much excellent work in the area of vulnerability and risk-taking, puts it rather differently. What would you do if you thought you might fail, but is worth doing anyway? 

Both questions seek to elicit our dreams and heart’s desires, setting them free from the limitations of failure’s discouragement. One removes the outside obstacle; the other looks at changing our response. Which question works best for you? Try them both and find out.

Journalling question-prompts abound online. Choose one that resonates with you. It will make itself known by the emotional reaction you have to it.  When you read it you feel challenged, inspired, intrigued, indignant…

Use a question that you have come across in everyday life. Someone asks you something you can’t answer. Take it away and journal it to discover your answer – or the answer you would have given with more time to think it through.

Pose your own question-prompts for yourself.  The great creative question is What if …?which you can follow by.. anything you like. Let it open up possibilities. Read what you’ve written and pose a follow-up question that emerges from your material. 

And there’s the so-called Miracle Question: You wake up one morning and a miracle has happened. Everything good you could imagine for yourself has happened and life is exactly as you want it to be. What do you notice about you, and things around you, that tell you that this miracle has taken place?

What would you like to ask your journal? What questions does your journal have for you?

Next week will be Week 10 of this series of journalling inputs, and it will the final one for a while. I’m thinking of running a journalling online course. We can look some basics and try out different journalling techniques. Who knows where this might go? Please let me know if you’d be interested.

Next week I’d like to answer any questions you might have about journalling. If you’ve been following these pieces or even if you’ve only checked in to the odd one or two, do get in touch with your questions. 

Meanwhile, you could try some question-prompts in your journal. What’s stopping you? 

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  • About Julia


    From writing stories for my younger brother, to penning poems for the School Magazine and filling a growing pile of personal journals, the written word has always been part of my life’s journey.

    I started out as an English Teacher and subsequently retrained as a Counsellor. I have counselled in a GP Surgery and worked with various Employee Assistance Schemes and Charitable Trusts alongside seeing private clients.

    Although I have done some freelance journalism and written four non-fiction books, creative writing has become my main focus in recent years.

    My poems have appeared online on sites including Amaryllis, Silver Birch Press, Clear Poetry, Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis, Riggwelter and Ink,Sweat and Tears. I have been published in Curlew and Bucks Mill Magazine, and anthologised in Our Hearts Still Sing. My first poetry collection, Chester City Walls, came out in 2015.

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