104 Atypical Journal Prompts for 2013

First, let’s just acknowledge the elephant in this room, which is the part of all of us that just read the title of this post and said what-the-effing-crap-is-this-journaling-shit-please-go-build-something-with-your-powertools-thank-you. I’m with you guys, I said the same thing when I was writing the title for this post because this has eff-all to do with DIY unless you count the fact that I DIYed this list for myself. I did. I also just made up the word “eff-all” and I love it. It needs more f’s, probably. Effff-all.

Seriously, if non-powertool related posts aren’t your thing, come back tomorrow and I promise something covered in sawdust. Or at least the promise of something covered in sawdust.

If you’re still with me, you actually may find this list useful for something. I don’t know what. I’m using the term “journaling” here very loosely… it could mean just what you think it does– writing in a journal. Or maybe it’s photography. Sketching. Poetry. Doodling. Collaging. All I know is that one of the things I’m challenging myself to do this year is spend time creating just for myself at least twice a week— I don’t know why, exactly, I just think it’s something important that I’m missing. And this sounded great in theory, mind you, but the first evening I sat down with that blank page of my sketchbook in front of me, I was literally that… blank. I couldn’t just start from nothing.

Then I thought I may be able to find a list of creative journaling prompts that might really help me get started, but almost everything I found was of the “Write down your three best childhood memories” variety. Not exactly what I was looking for. But you know what I do when I can’t find exactly what I’m looking for, right? I make it.

So I came up with 104 prompts, ideas, questions, thoughts– things to help me get started. I haven’t made any rules about how I create and I’ve tested the waters with words, charcoals, pictures, colored pencils and watercolors so far.

While I won’t share more than this peek at my journal, I thought that the prompts may also be useful to someone who is looking for something similar. Just a list of not-generic things to use as a foundation for something else. This is what I wrote for myself at the top of the list: Don’t do them in order (unless you want to.) Take them literally, or figuratively, or metaphorically. Make them your own. Let them turn into something else.

So, without further ado… the list:

  1. Answer this one question: What’s Next?
  2. Share a secret with yourself.
  3. What is the thing that scares you most right now? What is the size, shape, and texture of it? Where does it live inside you? How does it define you?
  4. Make something for your future self. What are your hopes? Questions?
  5. Make something for yourself a year ago. What did you need?
  6. What has inspired you today?
  7. Tell a truth.
  8. What is the best thing that happened to you this week?
  9. What is the strongest thing you are feeling at this moment?
  10. How do you see yourself (In words, drawing, metaphor, images.)?
  11. How do you think others see you? How would you like them to? Is this closer or farther apart from how you see yourself?
  12. Take a flaw, and turn it into something beautiful.
  13. What is the last thing that has really touched you or changed you as a person? What did it feel like? What did it look like? Did other people notice the change?
  14. How do you feel at this exact moment? How do you feel this week? This year? What does it look like?
  15. What is one thing about yourself you would never want to lose? Is it private or do other people see it? Do you share it openly?
  16. What are you envious of? What does it feel like?
  17. What are you most grateful for, right at this moment? How would your life be different without it?
  18. Make yourself smile.
  19. What have the most defining and impactful moments in your life been? How have they impacted the person you are today? Do you carry them with you every day? Do you want to?
  20. What is something in your immediate area that describes you in some way.
  21. How do you express yourself best? Do it.
  22. Make a list or mind-map of all the things that bring you joy.
  23. Who do you feel most connected to in your life right now? Is it comfortable/uncomfortable? What impact does this person have on your life? What would be different without them?
  24. Enjoy one of your favorite simple pleasures. Right now.
  25. Make something ugly.
  26. Take one thing you keep locked up inside, and let it out.
  27. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned?
  28. What is the one place/time you would go back to right now, if you could? What does it look like? Feel like? What is the story you tell yourself about it? What is the truth?
  29. What is one thing you would die for?
  30. Surprise yourself.
  31. Map it: All the places you’ve been, all of the places you want to go. Which is most important to you and why?
  32. What is the truth about love?
  33. Apologize.
  34. What is the biggest gray area in your life? Why? Do you like it that way?
  35. What can’t you see clearly right now that you’d like to?
  36. What does your laughter look like?
  37. Let go.
  38. Listen to your favorite song (of the moment) and create.
  39. Share the word of the day.
  40. What is most disappointing to you right now? Why? How has it affected your life? If you could change this, and un-learn whatever lessons it taught you, would you? Who would you be then?
  41. What do you want most right now? How would it change you or your life? How would you feel if you got it? Would your life change if you didn’t?
  42. What creates the most tension in your life right now? Is it positive or negative?
  43. What gives you the most energy? What does it feel like? How does it affect your mood? Actions?
  44. What animal describes you at this moment?
  45. What is the nicest thing someone could say to you right now? Say it.
  46. Purge.
  47. What is the heaviest thing that you carry? What is the most precious?
  48. Lose track of time.
  49. What is one thing you would attempt to do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
  50. Do something for the first time.
  51. What is one thing you wish you’d said, but never did?
  52. What is your six-word story today?
  53. Be curious.
  54. What is the foundation you are built on?
  55. What comes naturally to you?
  56. What have you worked hardest for? Is it worth it?
  57. Your favorite color (today.)
  58. If you were forced to move, where would you go? How would your life be different there?
  59. What is the currency of your life? Love, money, time, things? How does this shape your decisions?
  60. Connect yourself to something or someone.
  61. Celebrate yourself.
  62. Write a confession.
  63. What would your planet look like, if you were in charge of creating one?
  64. What does stress look like?
  65. What are the biggest hurdles in your life? What do they look like? What are they keeping you from?
  66. Show your beauty.
  67. What does regret look like?
  68. Be grateful.
  69. What about you shines?
  70. Something different.
  71. What does alone look like?
  72. What have you begun recently? Did you finish it? How does it make you feel?
  73. Ask for something.
  74. What has make you the strongest in your life? How would you be different without it?
  75. Find a piece of art that inspires you. Recreate your own version here.
  76. The word you hate the most.
  77. What have you done that someone else told you that you couldn’t? How did it feel?
  78. A time that seems better than it really was. What is the truth of it?
  79. What part of yourself do you never let anyone see?
  80. Show how less can be more.
  81. Tell a lie.
  82. What song lyrics are most meaningful to you right now.
  83. Write a poem. Or draw one.
  84. How do you hide or disguise yourself? How does it make you feel?
  85. What’s the very first thing that comes to mind when you see the word “beauty?”
  86. What do you believe is impossible?
  87. Create your happy place.
  88. If you peel back all of the layers of the onion of yourself, what is at the core? What are the layers made out of? How do they define you?
  89. A memory.
  90. What drains you? What does it look and feel like? How does this impact what you do and how you do it?
  91. If you could have more of one thing (that you already have) what would it be?
  92. Get lost in something.
  93. What does it look like when you sing?
  94. Create something warm.
  95. When is the last time you cried?
  96. What does love look like?
  97. Where is your center?
  98. Be sneaky.
  99. Use this page to get rid of something.
  100. Mind map the things that are most important to you.
  101. What is one thing you want to believe in? Do you?
  102. Be a showoff.
  103. What does joy look like?
  104. What word is closest to your heart?

(Some of these prompts were inspired by this website with 365 journal prompts, and books like Wreck This Journal.)

8 Responses

  1. Another idea having to do with music. My daughter dances (not the pole type…the ballet/tap/jazz/pojnt/lyrical type), so she connects with music. You mentioned music as a way to create, what about music as a way to write? Specifically, music usually evokes emotion, so take that emotion and reduce it to writing.

    Just a thought. I could be out of my mind too. Won’t be the first time.

  2. One way I get through my journals is to give myself a time frame, say a semester (I teach, so it’s a good reference for me, but 6 months might be a reasonable goal), then count the number of pages in the book, divide by the number of weeks and then I know how many pages I have to do each week. Good news is, if I don’t make my quota, I find a way to creatively tear out pages, so I always make my quota.


  3. Brilliant post, great list.
    I liked loads of your prompts, but most of all I liked it best when you said.

    “using the term “journaling” here very loosely… it could mean just what you think it does– writing in a journal. Or maybe it’s photography. Sketching. Poetry. Doodling. Collaging.”

    Spot on!

    I’m going to modify 53 a little bit, since I think it is one of the most important prompts in your list.
    ‘Go somewhere, take your journal and (53)(be curious.’

    Thanks for a great post.

  4. These are absolute brilliant. I have been looking for topics for the new journal I just received and these by far have been the most helpful; thank you.

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