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Wednesday Writing Prompt: Journaling by Debra Brenegan

shame the devil

Practice Makes Perfect: How journaling helps the writing process

Guest Post by

Debra Brenegan

One requirement I have for students of my Introduction to Creative Writing Courses: Keep a journal. My students need to write a minimum of two full pages a week for the 15 weeks we are in class together. What do they write about? Anything!  Why do they have to keep a journal? Because writing is a skill, like skateboarding and tap dancing—the more you do it, the more you practice, the better you will get at it. Just putting pen or pencil to the page (or fingers to the keyboard) and writing helps you become a better writer. It doesn’t matter if you write lists of ideas for future stories, overheard conversations, or a rant letter to the lawn service person who always misses trimming around your daylilies. Just write. Anything. I frequently use writing prompts to help my students dive into their journals. Here are a few of my favorites:

*Describe what you had for breakfast using all five senses.

*List the things your parents said over and over again.

*Tell about your favorite pair of shoes as a child.

*Describe the worst date you’ve been on.

*What’s the weather like today?  Give sensory details to describe it.

*Open a magazine and find a picture of a person – explain that person’s most pressing need.

*Pretend you are an animal (maybe even your pet).  What makes you angry?

*Write about any first day of school.

*Describe a cooking disaster you had.

*What was your first experience with loss?  With achievement?

*Look at your outfit today.  Describe it using similes and metaphors.

*Describe your first driving test from the perspective of your driving teacher.

*Write your Academy Award acceptance speech.

*Make a list of all the things that are stressing you out.

*If you could change anything about your home for free, what would you change?

It doesn’t matter what you write about or how clever/logical/sophisticated your journal writing turns out. The point is just to practice writing so that when you need to pound out a chapter or tinker with a scene, you have real, practical experience getting the stuff from your head to the paper.

Your turn. Do you keep a journal? What sorts of things do you write about in it? Leave your comments below.

About the Author. Debra Brenegan received her doctorate in creative writing from The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is an Assistant Professor of English at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. Debra Brenegan’s novel, Shame the Devil, a historical account of nineteenth-century American writer Fanny Fern, is forthcoming with SUNY Press. Debra Brenegan will speak at the Write Now! Mastermind class on Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at noon CDT. Visit the Mastermind page to become a member and attend the class (it’s free). For more information on Debra, please visit her Website.






1 Response

  1. That’s great advice both for beginners and experienced writers. There’s always more to learn, and a writer must never stop practicing, reaching, and figuring out how language can represent things and thoughts.

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