Journal writing ideas & creative writing group activities from veteran writers and facilitators

Copyright National Lilac Publishing, LLC

The best journal writing ideas and creative writing group activities from private memoirs to fantasy fiction use the group’s energy to help participants access their private voice and inner wisdom they may not have even known they had. Here are the ones that have been so effective for the groups I and my colleagues facilitated.

Journaling to find your life’s sense of purpose:

I’ve enjoyed one of my business affiliates, Higher Awareness, for more profound journaling and creative writing experiences. They have both free daily inspirational quotes, and a choice of various memberships that supply the journal writing ideas and writing methods that beneficially transform their participants. They also have facilitator training for people wanting to teach this form of personal journaling to others as a home-based business.

Free writing: The left brain that wants to analyze, criticize and limit will fight against free writing to the end. All the more reason it’s one of the greatest journal writing ideas and methods for creative writing around. It eventually bypasses the critic, clears out the clutter and junk, and finds a pathway to the right brain where the exceptional unique writing voice and journaling healing can pour through. The left brain is meant to be used for editing and polishing only *after* the right brain has been accessed for original material. It isn’t supposed to block the way to that original material.

Free writing starts with a prompt (see prompts below) and then a timer is set for only a minute or two for beginners. Gradually work your way up to five, ten and even 20 minutes. While the timer is going, participants hand write onto paper non-stop until the timer goes off and cannot stop the writing process, even if they are writing, “I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what to write…” It’s the movement of the hand over the paper that does the clearing.

Clustering: Clustering also accesses the right brain’s creativity and foils the left brain because lefty doesn’t really understand what it’s doing during this process -- so has trouble taking control. The book “Writing the Natural Way” is most likely at your library and explains it well. The basic instructions are to write a self-chosen or prompted word or phrase in the center of the page and circle it. The circling is very important. Then draw a line to anywhere on the page and at the end of the line, write the first word that comes to mind prompted by the original word, and circle it. Then continue either re-connecting from the first word, or pushing off from any subsequent words. This is also done with a timer for one to five minutes.

Journaling and creative writing prompts:

For groups, it’s fun to allow everyone to contribute to various journal writing ideas and writing prompts. Here are a few ways:

- Have the group members bring ten journal writing ideas or writing prompt words or phrases each written on the same size of paper, such as one half of a 3x5 card. Put them all in a box, and let everyone take turns drawing one for a writing session. Repeat once the box is empty. Prompt ideas depend on whether you’re doing personal journaling or creative writing, but for starters: “The first thing I remember about being age 12…” “Mother Earth…” “The cause of fighting…” “Leprechauns…” “The trouble with fixing things is…”

- Story starters: This is a favorite choice for creative writing group activities, and sometimes can be used for journal writing ideas as well. Collect story starters in the same manner as the prompts above, and have your group draw one for each writing session, or just have the facilitator of that week provide them. The story starter can be a paragraph or two. It is read out loud while being written down by everyone in the group, then they have a designated amount of time to take the story where they want it to go.

A good place to find them is the first few lines of novels and short stories. We have also published a fun e-book entitled, Build 100 Worlds with many writing tips and enriched story starters. But for now, here are some examples: “Although the stone looked perfectly normal, she had no idea that turning it over would change the course of her day. She reached down and touched it’s cold, rough skin.” “Chris glared at the fall leaves swirling in the breeze. The inevitable couldn’t be put off any longer, and he rose from the bench.” “The train’s horn ordinarily would have made him look up, but even the sounds of the train station couldn’t distract him from keeping his eyes on the dirty floor while that feeling of being watched from the shadows grew stronger.”

- It’s especially fun to cluster before a story starting session. With the last example, cluster “train station,” first, then read and write down the story starter and begin the writing session.

Visual prompts:

It’s important to open the floodways to the mind’s ability to describe in words what the eyes see. In the same manner as collecting prompts and story starters, collect images cut from magazines. Pull one out, and as the story starter, have the group describe the scene in writing.

You can continue with the same image by asking questions that help with characterization, such as, “Why is the woman in a hurry?” or “Even though he’s smiling, what is he really feeling right now?” or “Who used to live in this abandoned home in its heyday?”

Journal writing ideas for the other senses: For journaling or creative writing on the sense of touch, bring pieces of bark, cotton balls, silk ribbons, dried grass... you get the idea. Journal writing on taste is similar to any taste-testing party. And for scent, bring pine needles in baggies, drop essential oils on cotton balls and seal them in jars until used, bring a paper bag of fresh garden soil... and so on.

See also our article on journaling for teens

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