When I was in middle school, I started keeping a journal where I wrote about my life, pretty much daily, and kept record of the things that happened to me and my thoughts and feelings about all of it. I did this my entire life on and off, and still to this day I have all of my old journals from growing up. (I don’t know if I’ll ever read them again, but I love having them.)
Keeping a journal is something I do now too. I don’t always detail what’s happening in my life. Sometimes I do. Other times I’m freestyle journaling on questions about life or my dreams or beliefs or purpose or whatever bigger questions are on my mind that day.
And it turns out journaling is not only a great way to document your thoughts and feelings about life, but it’s also great for problem-solving and coming up with ideas.
I now use journaling for pretty much EVERYTHING—from thinking through life to planning out stories to documenting what’s going on to writing my reality to coming up with new products and workshops, and more.
So I thought I’d share 15 of my favorite journaling prompts for writing fictional stories and for life. My recommendation is to do freestyle writing on each of these questions, just to see what bubbles up. Write them by hand if at all possible.
For Fictional Stories
1. What is this story about?
I love this question because it cuts right to the core and doesn’t mess around.
2. Who is this person, really?
When it comes to developing characters, the more real and three-dimensional you can make them, the better. Asking questions like this will help you do that.
3. What made this person who they are today?
Backstory is an important part of creating a strong character. This question is great for digging deep into that.
4. Why does this scene need to be in the story?
Scene writing is the actual execution of a story on the page. A question like this will help you ensure your scenes are mission-driven and have a purpose that moves the story forward.
5. What happens in this story?
Another question that points to the plot of the story and figuring out what it is. A story must has something specific happening—an opportunity, a problem to resolve, etc.—otherwise it will become episodic.
For Generating Ideas
I LOVE journaling for uncovering ideas that are already inside me, I just have to get the junk out of the way first. I recommend doing these prompts as either freestyle writing or as a list.
1. What should I call this book?
Book titles can be challenging to come up with because you need to get one that will tell the reader what to expect while leaving some intrigue. Write down as many ideas as you can think of, even if you think the idea sucks and you’d never in a million years call your book that. By writing every idea down, you’ll get the sucky or crap ideas out of the way so the good and great ones can come through.
2. What should my next book be about?
I love to brainstorm and I’m constantly writing down ideas for books, blog posts, guest posts, products, workshops, you name it. I don’t create everything that I write down, but by generating ideas on a regular basis, I’m able to tap into my creativity and uncover gems that I do create and put out into the world.
3. What do I want to create right now?
Whenever I’m in the mood to be creative but don’t know what I feel like creating, I’ll ask myself this question. Whatever pops out that feels like a HELL YES is what I choose. Sometimes that’s baking a dessert or making a craft or writing a short story or drawing or creating a new product or workshop… whatever I feel in the moment.
4. What book could I write right now?
This one is similar to number 2, I just like this wording and feel it brings out a totally different response in me. So I use this question all the time to brainstorm my next book idea. And I often get multiple ideas that I really like, so I’ll add them all to my running ‘write this’ list. It’s impossible to run out of ideas when you’re constantly generating them.
5. How can I make this better?
Whenever I ask this question it always takes the thing I’m asking it about to the next level, whether that’s a scene in my story, a product I’ve created, a workshop I’m teaching or a book I’m writing. Ask this question. Ask it often.
And now the journaling prompts that relates to life. I love these because they force you to see the issues or areas of life that you’ve been ignoring or pushing away. Confronting at times? Sure. But worth it.
I recommend you freestyle write these as well.
1. What do I want?
You can’t get what you want in your life if you don’t know what you want. This question will get you clear on exactly what you want, so you can start going after it.
2. Why do I want it?
This question is super important! Because you can’t just want something just to want it. Well, OK, technically you can, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get it. You need to have a reason for why you want it. The “why” behind the things you want will be the driving force for you actually getting them.
3. What do I need to be doing in my life every day that I’m not doing right now?
I told you it was a little confronting, but it’s also a great way to recalibrate your life on a regular basis. I’m always asking myself this question and adjusting course where necessary.
Alignment is important when it comes to achieving your goals and the success you want in your writing life. If you’re not aligned—for example, if you want something, but you’re not taking the actions required to get it—then it won’t happen. Alignment is everything.
4. How can I take better care of myself right now?
I like this question because as a writer, your body and your mind are your tools for doing your work in the world. And it’s hard to do your writing consistently or at the level you want to do it at when you’re not taking care of yourself.
This will help you identify the places where you could be doing a better job.
5. What does my dream life look and feel like?
One of my all-time favorite questions and one that I ask myself almost daily. Not just in my journaling but in my visualization practice too. Because the more I know about what my dream life looks and feels like, the easier it is for my to picture it and feel it as real.
Give one or more of these a try and if you get something really good out of it, I’d love to hear about it.
Write with a purpose, live with intention,
P.S. Are you currently revising a story or getting ready to? I’ve got something awesome coming later this week that will give you a process and a strategy for getting your story revised and ready to send to an editor and Beta Readers.
More details soon… Get on my email list so you’re the first to know when it goes live and you’ll also get my free training + workbook–From ‘Eh’ to ‘Awesome’: 9 Questions to Turn Your Idea Into an Actual Story.