How to Use Journal Prompts

Feb 21, 2024

There are three clear storage bins tucked up on the top shelf of my office closet. They contain years of filled spiral bound notebooks. They date back for decades and include daily writing on any and all subjects on my mind.

I love the physical process of writing. The feel of the paper, holding a pen in my hand and the sensation of laying ink onto the page in a specific pattern. I even appreciate the smudge of ink on the outside edge of my left hand as I push it across the freshly written words that I wouldn’t get if I pulled the words along with my right hand. It’s satisfying to see words fill the page. It doesn’t matter what I’m writing about. My mind is going all the time, so I just write those thoughts down. It’s like daily therapy. Journaling is a powerful way to work through problems, difficult emotions, and other quandaries. It can also lead to insight and a new perspective. I use daily journaling to organize my thoughts and untangle my mind. 

Occasionally, a good idea comes to me that I pull out of these pages and use to create course content, a piece of writing or part of a workshop. But that’s not my intent. I’m not writing to produce here. I’m just writing to write.

This is a challenge for many though, and why journal prompts are helpful. It can be daunting to stare at a blank page. We’ve been programmed to think of writing as producing work to be judged by others. Many adults have been shamed in one way or another in school or at work for the quality of their writing. If you got a grade on a piece that said, “not good enough” or a reprimand from a boss like, “too long”, it can form a block to writing.

Prompts can help remove these blocks. A journal prompt is simply a thought starter. It’s a key to start the writing engine. A prompt can be anything from “write about the color red” to “memories of learning to ride a bike” or even a word like “bell.”

I prefer writing prompts in the form of a question.

The brain loves to answer questions and solve problems. When a question is posed, serotonin and dopamine are released in the brain which causes a mental reflex called instinctive elaboration. When this happens, the brain starts to obsess about this question and goes to fetch the answer just like my pudlepointer who can’t not run after a thrown ball. Questions feel good to the brain and are also motivating.

Consider these two:

  • I should get started on the project.
  • What would be the best way to get started on this project?

Which feels better? More inviting?

There are several ways to use journal prompts. Read through a list of them, like I’ll share below, and go for the one that feels the most edgy. Or pick a prompt like, “What am I grateful for today?” and respond to that same prompt every day. You can write for a set time or a set length, like one full page. The reason for this is that if you don’t have set a destination, you’ll stall out before you get to the nugget. There’s a natural lull that if you move through, you’ll go deeper.

A songwriter friend of mine was talking with me about the writing process. He said it’s like turning on a fire hydrant. The brown water that’s been stagnant in the pipes flows out first. Then after it’s been running for a while, the clear water rushes out. This clear water is the creativity. Yet most people stop with the brown water and think, “Yuk, this sucks.” Daily writing with prompts helps get to the clear creative water. This creativity isn’t just for your writing. It’s something you can take with you into your day in all you do.

Here's a sample of some journal prompts for you to play with, as you like.

  • What am I grateful for today?
  • What is my heart yearning for today?
  • Why did I respond to that comment the way I did?
  • What do I hope is true this time next week, next month or next year?
  • Where do I feel the strongest sensation in my body right now?
  • What would be something yummy to make for dinner tonight?
  • Where would it be fun to go on vacation? Why?
  • What’s the best outcome for the meeting this week?
  • What does my Higher Self want me to know about this situation?
  • When was a time I followed an intuitive insight and what was the outcome?

The ultimate journal prompt is: Who am I? This is a question to kick around for all times.

I wanted to write about journal prompts because, at the end of my blog posts, I’ll sometimes share a journal prompt or two. Some readers may take out a trusted journal and begin to write in response to the prompt. Others will ponder as they wander. Walking is a great way to process thoughts too, to mull over questions and gain insight.

These are questions that can lead to a better understanding. Self-reflection leads to self-mastery. This is the beauty of a journal prompt.

 “I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn,”

~Anne Frank

Highly sensitive person (HSP) is a personality trait that 20% of the world's population has. Do you? Take this quiz to find out.

Take The Quiz

Stay connected

Join my newsletter list to receive weekly tips, inspiration, and a fresh perspective on having a micro business that suits your highly sensitive nature.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.