Monday, July 25, 2016

Journaling and Writing Prompts To a Deeper Place

I don’t journal much, but when I do it's usually in response to a writing prompt at a writing workshop.

While some writers are quick to say they don't like the emphasis on writing prompts (really a way to journal) that permeate many writing workshops and conferences, I am torn.

A writer has to be in the mood and frame of mind to write creatively . . . or at least I do. Words can't be churned out like widgets. On the other hand, prompts can be provocative, a gentle nudge to the muse.

Here's a helpful blog post on different kinds of prompts, including images, to move the writer off the blank page. I'd also like to share a couple prompts I found useful at the recent IWWG conference with special thanks to teachers and mentors June Gould and Eunice Scarfe.

Start out with On this day . . .

On this day I listen. He talks about the women in his life . . . immoral, no boundaries, little integrity, he says. His disappointment is palpable in the room steeped in angst and cigarette smoke. "These women" cheat on husbands and boyfriends; phone at midnight leaving rambling drug intoxicated messages; desperate texts begging, 'Please, I miss you! I need to see you again.' On this day I think back to when I was young and in love. I recall that Joni Mitchell lyric "tethered to a ringing telephone line." I waited for the call that never came. A man was supposed to pursue me! Is this role reversal of the sexes - woman as predator and pursuer - some bizarre end product of feminism?

Or this prompt: Write a letter to someone who is dead:

Dear Virginia. I see you sitting at the small green desk at Monk House. You choose your words carefully; scratch this one out, edit this one. As you stare out the window, the pink and white hollyhocks sway in breezes coming off the river. Very soon now you will put down your pen, take a deep breath, walk a mile (I know. I walked this same path); dip a toe into icy river waters, slowly, purposefully, wade in up to your waist . . . let the currents carry you downstream to your watery grave. Dear Virginia. You speak to me after all these years:

"When I cannot see words curling like rings of smoke around me I am in darkness – I am nothing."

"So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say."

Another prompt begins with: What I mean to say . . .

What I mean to say is that masks hold deep meaning. A woman’s mask bought at a market stall in Venice hangs on my kitchen wall. A headdress of glittering purple and gold grape leaves frames her heart-shaped, porcelain face, full red lips. She is ripe, sensual – bearing fruit. The goddess of the harvest!

Or, she could have been, anyway. Her eyes are vacant – black holes ringed with gold.

What I mean to say is that a woman, this woman hides her feelings, her longings, her desires behind a worn and weathered mask. I had a dream that you and I would meet again. You come to me and with a sigh I wait for your touch . . . tenderly you lift my mask and I am free.


Summertime is the best time for thoughts and dreams to take flight, to open the windows wide and welcome the writing life of reflection and joy. What writing prompts can you share here in the Women's Writing Circle? Would love to hear some of your favorite prompts to jumpstart the muse.

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