writing prompts

50+ writing prompts for journaling

Welcome to a collection of my all-time favorite journal prompts. Many are from various sources I've encountered over the years, and I developed others myself.

These questions and exercises are designed to spark your creativity, encourage reflection, and help you practice mindfulness. Use these prompts in bullet journaling, cathartic writing, classroom writing assignments, diary keeping, ice breakers for team meetings, and letters to friends and family. I also use them to better understand my characters as I warm up for a fiction writing session.

Links are offered to all books and magazines still in print. Please support these authors!

🌿 documenting your life

  • What oceans have you touched? Describe your trips.
  • Write about a place you arrived serendipitously.
  • If you were required to move five times within the next few years, which of your furnishings and other items would you absolutely take with you to help you feel most at home anywhere you go?
  • Describe a sacred space you have visited. How did being there make you feel?
  • What is the most valuable object you own? How did you acquire it? Would you ever sell it?
  • Did you attend your senior prom? Describe the night.
  • Do you have any tattoos or piercings? If so, describe how you got them.
  • You're embarking on a five-hour road trip. What songs do you add to the playlist?
  • List ten movies all of humanity should watch at least once.
  • When is the appropriate date to begin playing Christmas music? What are your favorite holiday songs?
  • List all the swimming pools you recall visiting throughout your life. Which were your favorites? Who visited with you?
  • If you had to choose one outfit from your closet to wear as a daily uniform for the next year, what would you put together?
  • "Name five things that make you extraordinary."
  • In the form of a list (which could be a poem), note small things which have mattered in your life.
  • “List twenty things you enjoy doing. . . . When was the last time you let yourself do those things? Next to each entry, place a date. Don’t be surprised if it’s been years for some of your favorites.”
  • Trace or print a line-art world map and paste it into your journal. Color each country you've visited; mark each city you've traveled to.
  • "Describe your current pet(s) or any pet(s) you have had in the past."
  • “Good health is not achieved by merely treating symptoms. Plan for yourself an appropriate diet, moderate exercise, relief from stress, and adequate rest to help your body find its natural balance. List any habits or practices that stand between you and optimum health. . . . Select one and commit to changing it. Make a plan with a time frame.”
    • Finding Your Inner Goddess: An Interactive Journal, Amy Patterson (out of print)

  • "Gather three pictures of yourself at different ages. Study these, and reflect: Who was always in there, no matter what body you had or what clothes you wore? This is your core essence, always present behind the image in the pictures. Write about who you have always been." 
“Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.”
- neil gaiman

🌿 expressing gratitude

🌿 facing your fears

  • Choose a recent disaster. What silver linings existed within the tragedy?
  • “When was the last time you felt unafraid?”
  • “Time Travel: List three champions of your creative self-worth. This is your hall of champions, those who wish you and your creativity well. Be specific. Every encouraging word counts. . . . Even if you disbelieve a compliment, record it. It may well be true. Additionally, you might wish to write the compliment out and decorate it. Post it near where you do your morning pages or on the dashboard of your car. I put mine on the chassis of my computer to cheer me as I write."
  • “List the ways you feel powerless in your life right now. Ways as big as your entire career, as small as replacing a broken light bulb in your closet. List until you can’t list anymore. Then go further! (If you worry about it, chances are you feel powerless about it. . . . Now circle the ones you can do something about immediately. Go do one small one right now! How does it feel? Amazing, right?”
  • “What makes you stand apart from everyone else? Is it your writing abilities? Is it the ease at which you throw a party together? What truly makes your heart sing? . . . What could you do to expand on your joy?”
  • “Writing frees you to rise above the daily dust and see clearly. What is the real issue you need to write about?”
  • "Make a list of statements that start with 'I can't.' Then replace the words 'I can't' with 'I won't.' Notice if there is a shift in your energy."

🌿 hopes, dreams, and imagination

  • List three goals for the next month. Who or what might help you achieve them?
  • If you could redesign your own bedroom from scratch, what would it look like?
  • Find a map. With your eyes closed, point to a place. If you were afforded 24 hours there, what would you do?
  • Picture a round dining table with eight seats where everyone can focus on the same topics. Each guest is asked to bring one question to spark conversation, and every guest must answer in turn. (This is similar to a concept called a Jefferson Dinner.) Who would you invite to share the meal? What would you ask your guests?
  • "Imagine you have an entire day to spend any way you'd like. The only guideline: your choices must bring you pleasure and true fulfillment, not simply help you 'catch up' (with sleep or paperwork) or check off items from your to-do list. How does the day play out?"

🌿 mindfulness 

  • What age are you today? What age do you feel?
  • List ten adjectives to describe your neighborhood.
  • Looking into a mirror, draw your own face.
  • Sit on a park bench with your notebook. Fully describe the first person who passes you. Make up a storyline. Where are they going? What challenges do they face?

🌿 relationships

  • Who has made time stop for you? Who can you spend an entire day with without glancing at a clock?
  • Do you have children? Write about three strengths each one has. If you don't have children, consider your siblings, nieces and nephews, cousins, and other young people in your life.
  • Are you married or engaged? How did you or your spouse propose? If you aren't married or engaged, consider how your parents or grandparents proposed.
  • Have you ever found yourself more capable than your boss? How did that impact your work relationship? If you haven't had a boss yet, consider a teacher, coach, clergy member, etc.
  • Do you have any heirlooms passed down through your family? What are they, who gave them to you, and who would you like to pass them to in the future?
  • Which of your family members and ancestors served in wars? Did they share stories with you?
  • In list form, “Describe what love looks like.”
  • “Name someone who makes you jealous. Do you envy their fame? Their money? The way people love them? What exactly do you believe you deserve that they have and you do not? . . . Now think: Do you actually know what their daily life is like? Do some research! Read their biography. Scroll through their social media. Be honest: Do you envy the struggles in their lives, or is it just the accolades you’re focusing on?”
  • “Because we are usually so close to the people we love, both physically and emotionally, we often forget how to look at them objectively, as they might appear to an outsider. This exercise gives you an opportunity to step back and take a fresh look at those you love. . . . Once you’ve decided on someone, close your eyes for a moment and put the person on your mental TV screen. . . . . Look for any unusual physical characteristics, especially features that distinguish them from others. Let them move about on the [imaginary] screen and observe them in a familiar action. Watch how they walk, run, sit, and so on. Go back to a close-up of their face. Let them talk to you, and listen closely to what you hear. If you want to ask them a particular question, do so and let them give you an answer. Look directly into their eyes for a while and study the eyes in detail. What do you see in those eyes? What are the real feelings behind them? Do you see anything you’ve never seen before? . . . Next imagine them interacting with others. . . . Describe the person fully, as if you’re explaining what they’re like to a perfect stranger."
  • Write a letter to someone who has passed, beginning with: “Dear _____, I wish I could have gotten to know you better.”
  • "I smile every time I think about this person from my childhood."
  • "God loves everybody. I especially need to remember that when I think about this person."

🌿 writing warm-ups for fiction