Journaling Idea #25: Get a Journal with Prompts

I received several journals for Christmas, and the sequel to Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.
My son gave me Father’s Life: Dad, I Want to know Everything about You. This is a picture of its introduction.

Here’s my first entry written in response to a prompt that quickly stirred a memory for me.

If my messy cursive gives you trouble, here’s what I wrote in response to the prompt that said, “Describe the sight, feel, and smell of the first stuffed animal you remember having”:

I remember the night we arrived in Pennsylvania when I was four.  I had been born in Ohio, but we were moving to live upstairs in my grandparents house in Waverly, PA. I don’t remember whether I was carried upstairs or whether I stumbled up in a groggy state, but I do remember that I slept my first night on a daybed in the hall upstairs next to a stack of boxes.  Clutched close to me was my stuffed animal Tippy, a light brown puppy.  He had floppy ears and four legs that stuck out like he was sprawled.  He had a stubby tail.  I had named him after a real dog we had owned in Ohio that had run away.  Tippy, the stuffed animal, was actually silkier than I remember the real dog being.  I loved to pet and squeeze my stuffed Tippy.  I always took him to bed. I don’t remember how he smelled when I was little.  I can only imagine the dusty smell that he still has.  Yes, I still have Tippy.  I haven’t slept with him since grade school, but I keep him in my closet along with Ribby, my stuffed frog.  I’ll save the stories of Ribby for another page.

The journal my son gave me for Christmas is published by Chartwell Books. He gave a similar one to my wife and to his grandmother. The premise of this journal series is that you give the with its prompts to a loved one and when they are finished they return it to you to cherish.

You can find a wide variety of printed journals for purchase that have preprinted prompts at the top of each page. The one my son gave me, My Father’s Life, only has 204, with a slightly lower number of pages with prompts. It wouldn’t keep me busy for a whole year if I wrote in it every day, but it does provide some great questions to jumpstart my writing.

I’m looking forward to writing more entries in this journal and sharing them with my son.

I interviewed my mother after she retired and typed out the stories she told me. I cherish those stories.


Journal Idea #4: Five and Beyond–A Sensory Journey

Allegory of Taste by Gerrit van Honthorst (1592-1656)

Most of us learned in grade school that we had five senses, but much has been written about how we may have more than three times that number, depending on what you count.

David Hiskey, founder and editor of the website Today I Found Out and creator of The Brainfood Show podcast, argues in a post on Hella+Health that we have eighteen.

A journal devoted to exploring and savoring different types of sensory experiences provides numerous opportunities to practice description and increase your personal awareness of your body’s sensory receptors.

Hiskey’s list includes sight, taste, touch, pressure, itch, thermoception (heat and cold), sound, smell, proprioception (awareness of body’s position), tension, nociception (pain), equilibrioception (balance and body direction and acceleration), stretch receptors, chemoreceptors, thirst, hunger, magnetorecption, and time.

Take time to listen to Julian Treasure’s 2011 TED Talk (“5 Ways to Listen Better”), where he argues that we are losing are listening.

Try out Treasure’s five tools for improving your listening. Record your experience with each of his suggested activities and then consider how you might attempt similar activities with some of your other senses.

In literature, descriptions of sensory experiences are called imagery. Visual imagery captures what one experiences through sight. Auditory imagery describes sound. Olfactory imagery takes its name from the olfactory nerve which conveys our sense of smell to the brain. Tactile imagery describes what we feel through touch. Gustatory imagery is the name for taste descriptions. Kinetic imagery is the name for descriptions of motion.

One could easily spend a year exploring their senses and practicing using the description techniques of naming, detailing, and comparing. Naming focuses on your choice of nouns and verbs. Detailing utilizes adjectives and adverbs. Comparing utilizes similes and metaphors.

My college composition professor Dr. Ottilie Stafford emphasized repeatedly the importance of concrete and specific writing. Concrete writing focuses on sensory words as opposed to abstract words. The more specific your word choice, the more vivid the imagined experience for your reader or listener.