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Writing Exercises to Unlock Your Journaling Practice

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Journaling and writing is more than just putting pen to paper; it's a practice that can reveal deep associations within our minds. It is a practice that can provide deep focus and intent in a world otherwise defined by short attention span, surface level analysis, and groupthink.

There are plenty of blog articles with writing prompts that can jump start your journaling session, so we won't re-hash those here. In this post we offer four creative journaling approaches to unlocking new perspectives through process. We found four excellent exercises for you to try out - if you know of one we missed please leave a comment and we will add it to the list!

When you combine the following writing exercises with consistent practice and dedication, you will unlock insights and gain focus in your life. This blog post will explore a series of journaling exercises designed to help you get to know yourself better, ultimately leading to increased focus and understanding.

First 100 Questions

This exercise is simple but profoundly educational. You will simply write down the first 100 questions that come to your mind. Now, this is not as easy as it sounds. The first 5-10 questions will come immediately, the next 10 will take some thought, but after about 20-25 questions you will find that you're not sure what question to write. Indeed it is acceptable to write "what should my next question be?" as part of your list of questions.

In order to accomplish this, you should set aside at least 30-45 minutes of quiet alone time. If you are interrupted, you will fall out of your flow state and need to start over. Once you get past the initial flurry of questions, try to keep a quiet mind and allow the thoughts and questions to percolate into your conscious thought.

Once you finally ink down that 100th question, wipe the sweat from your brow and close your journal - move on with your day. In fact, you should wait at least 2 days before looking back at this list of questions to make sure you've completely forgotten most of what you wrote. After a couple days, go back and read through the list. You will see themes and topics that come up repeatedly in different forms in the list. In section two of this exercise you should write the themes that you see jump out from your list. These themes are the topics that your subconscious mind is focusing on throughout your day.

Describe a Situation That Brings You Joy

Sometimes, joy can be elusive, and it's easy to forget what truly makes you happy. In your journal, think of a specific situation or memory that brought you immense joy. Describe this moment in as much detail as possible.

Start by describing the location of the scene. Where are you? Indoors/outdoors? What's the weather like? The color of the wall? Continue by describing the people that are with you (if there are other people), and then the emotions that you're feeling. When describing emotions, consider where in your body you feel the emotion and how it feels. You should try to write multiple pages on this so once again, set aside a good chunk of time allow focus to develop.

Similar to the First 100 Questions, you should look back at what you wrote in a couple days. Here you will find interesting clues into the situations that bring you joy and where you experience that in your body. When you repeat this process over time with diverse situations in which you felt joy, you can start to see the conditions which predict your joy and calibrate your intuition towards living a more joyous life.

Stream of Consciousness Examination

Our minds are constantly buzzing with thoughts and ideas. A stream of consciousness examination involves setting a timer for a specific duration (e.g., 15 minutes) and writing whatever comes to mind during that time. It's a free-flowing process that allows you to access your innermost thoughts and feelings, even those you might not be aware of. To be successful with this, do not edit what you write. Let the spelling and grammar errors fly, and the sentences to run on as long as they'd like. Simply endeavor to continue writing for the specified durations.

You should do this exercise once per week (or every two weeks, you decide the interval) for a set number of weeks. When you re-read these, you may again see themes that pop up, it will be useful to log these themes and consider how your attention is allocated to them and why.

Self Authoring

A group of well known psychologists has introduced a powerful tool that contains modules for structured self reflection. The Self Authoring Suite is a set of four different modules which will assist you in contextualizing and process your past as well as creating a vision for your future.

The website recommends to start with Present Authoring. This process is actually divided into to modules - Faults and Virtues. Both sections are structured around the Big Five Personality Model and focus on negative or positive emotions and reactions.

Next, Future Authoring helps you visualize your ideal vision of your future 3-5 years down the road. The basic question is, "If I continued to do the things that I know I should do, what will my life look like in 3-5 years?" This is a powerful way to bring future rewards into the present moment, which is the catalyst for motivation and discipline.

Finally, complete the Past Authoring module. The website recommends working on this module last, as it is the most time consuming of the four. When considering events from your past, if negative emotion (shame, guilt, or fear) then it indicates that you have not had a chance to fully integrate and process the experience. Writing about these experiences can assist in the integration process that will ultimately free you from these past experiences and reduce your physiological threat responses such as chronically increased cortisol production.


Keeping a journal is a great way to get to know oneself better. You can explore these writing prompts to find out more about your personality's hidden sides, reaffirm your key principles, access your innermost ideas, and develop a compelling vision for your future self. In the end, the journey to self-discovery is an ongoing one, and your journal can be your dependable travel partner. Happy writing!

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