By Noemi VanSlyke
In times like these, maintaining your sanity is difficult enough. Gathering enough motivation to write can seem impossible—but keeping a journal can help. By documenting your personal thoughts and feelings during times of turmoil, you may find yourself discovering some enlightening conclusions or startling revelations about yourself and the world around you. And by creating a habit of writing, you’ll jumpstart your creativity and maybe even overcome that pesky writers’ block that’s been troubling you.
- If length intimidates you, try starting with a commitment of just one sentence a day. This requires very minimal effort and can hardly be excused away as too time-consuming or difficult. Once the habit starts to set in, up the ante to two sentences, a paragraph, or even a page. Starting off small can work wonders for building a viable routine of writing.
- Alternately, use a timer to track how long you write. Ten or twenty minutes a day can yield some great results over time. You may even find that once you’ve gotten the creative juices flowing, you won’t want to stop when the timer goes off!
- Stick to a schedule. While some people find it easiest to access their creativity in the morning, before the obligations and worries of the day have set it, others might find it more convenient to write in the evenings. If you’re feeling pressed for time, maybe even scheduling a few minutes during your lunch break will help keep you accountable to your writing. Set a reminder on your phone if that helps you to remember.
- Don’t succumb to perfectionism. The editor mindset might have you itching to rewrite every other sentence or cross out every other word, but letting your ideas flow unimpeded will allow for your creativity to flourish. It’s okay if it sucks! Do yourself a favor and get rid of that looming pressure to write beautifully and just write what comes—whether that’s a list of chores you have to do, a meandering monologue about your trip to the grocery store yesterday, or even an angry rant.
Need some ideas to help you get started? Here are five journaling prompts to promote your writing flow:
-Describe yourself to a complete stranger. List both internal and external qualities. Alternately, try describing your spouse the way you perceived them when you first met. Or your mother when she was in high school. Or your sibling when they were a child. Stretch your imagination!
-Describe your ideal life. What do you do each day? How do you contribute to the world around you? Who are you with? What foods are you eating? What have you accomplished? Don’t worry about the process of achieving your dream life. Just imagine you’re living in a world in which you already possess it.
-Write about the last time you cried. If it was for something insignificant (puppy videos on Instagram, anyone?) try to unpack why you cried: childhood experiences, recurring triggers, unhappy circumstances, etc. Don’t be afraid to dig deep—you may unearth something insightful about yourself.
-Write a gratitude list. Think family, personal relationships, friendships, pets, memories, health, educational opportunities, work, hobbies, physical objects in your home, food items in your pantry—anything and everything in your life that makes you happy or that you’re thankful for!
-Choose a single event in your life that you think has impacted you the most and describe it. The event can be anything that you define as momentous: a graduation, the loss of a loved one, winning a competition, a natural disaster, meeting a significant other, etc. What about your life has changed because of it? How would things be different if that event had never occurred? What lessons did you learn from experiencing that event?
By simply jotting down a few thoughts every day, you’ll have the opportunity to flex those writing muscles and embed a healthy habit into your daily routine. You’ll maybe even discover something about yourself you’ve never known before.
Noemi VanSlyke is a third year student at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is studying English Literature with a concentration in Creative Writing and she is one of three work studies at UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program.