FIVE JOURNAL WRITING EXERCISES FOR SEPTEMBER.
How to Journal
Forget New Year. September always feels like the right time for fresh starts to me. That’s not just because it’s my birthday month, but also the memories it brings of going back to school and college. And obviously that’s about learning new things but also…. new stationery!
BY SARAH SALWAY a poet, novelist and journalist from Kent.
Nurture the child within – sad stories with happy realisations
Here’s a sad story – one year my mum brought me the zippy sparkly pencil case of my dreams. I loved it so much that I all but slept with it under my pillow. I couldn’t wait for the first day of school to casually bring it out and hear everyone gasp, only to find that Mandy Adams had got a huge purple fake fur case that people queued up to stroke. Mine looked a bit … shiny … in comparison. But hey, I’ve got over that…. hmm…
How journalling can help you to adjust to the change of season this September.
To be honest, stationery’s still pretty emotive for me. I even wrote a poem about it:
Love and Stationery
Tonight, women dream of stationery;
well thumbed catalogues hidden
in bedside tables, falling open
at filing solutions. Some promise
this will be the last time, one final look
at industrial size staplers, hole punches.
Others take it further. Post-it notes
edge their desire as they chase private
rainbows husbands don’t understand.
At lunchtime, propelled out by a need
for highlighters, their fingers brush
sellotape dispensers as they imagine
being held by paperclips,
protected by bubblewrap,
wiped clean with Typex.
In quiet moments,
they will pull out new journals,
those blank, lined, empty pages waiting
to be filled; who knows what magic
will result from an organized life?
At bad times, when the ink runs dry,
you will find a woman standing in front
of an open stationery cupboard, the flutter
of her heart stilled by the weight
of correspondence quality paper.
Start journalling again – September is the best time to buy a new writing “home.”
So perhaps it isn’t surprising I became a writer. And now when I work with other people at all stages of their writing careers – whether they’re working towards publication or using it for their own wellbeing – there’s often joy involved when I say they need to go and buy a fresh journal! So what better time of year than now to go out and buy a new writing ‘home’ to start journaling again. (I call my journals ‘home’ because I can take them anywhere, on busy city streets, in cafes, in parks, and build my own quiet safe space. Writing in the wild is one of my very favourite things….)
When I first started journaling, I was addicted to the ‘Morning Pages’ three pages of anything I wanted SO LONG as I didn’t stop writing, didn’t cross out, didn’t worry about grammar etc etc. And I still go back to this freewriting sometimes when I need to clear my head. However, the more I’ve studied journaling and worked with other people, the number of different techniques I now include in my practice. My journal habit is well established now…
Here are five exercises I’ve designed especially for Yummy Yoga Girl for this time of year. Pick one and enjoy – and do send us a picture of you writing. I’ll send a signed copy of one of my books to the owner of the photo I love the most!
- There’s a beautiful poem by W S Merwin called To The Light of September, I invite you to read the poem, and spend some time in your journal going through the senses – what can you smell in September, hear, taste, touch, see – as this helps to really ground you in the month. It’s very different from any other and you may be amazed at what you otherwise miss. And then write a letter to the month. What does it mean to you? Address it properly – Dear September – and feel free to turn it into a poem if you want.
- Fill the gaps in these sentences, write as long or as short as you want:
- My favourite teacher was …. because… .
- I wish I had ….. at school … and …. .
- The best day at school was …… when ….
- I’d like to tell the girl/boy I was at school that….
- This is a time for change, so go for a walk with your journal and look for things that aren’t perfect, that are beautiful in their transformations. You may be interested in reading about the Japanese art of Wabi Sabi for inspiration. As you notice them, you may want to take a photo or write a small portrait of them, eg the leaves on the magnolia tree look as if they are curling inwards, trying to touch their tips to the bark of the mother tree. They’ll soon be falling off, flying back to earth, but for now they are having one last hug. They look as if they are listening but to what? Maybe the tree is singing them a lullaby or praise song before she lets them go.
>> Liking Sarah’s work. Yummy Yoga Girl is a huge fan. Click here to See Sarah’s website – for more information, or email her on firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Write the letters in September down the left hand side of your page…
and then fill in the lines with anything you want, but remember to start the next line with the next letter. There’s often something about writing to a constraint like this that encourages freedom and surprise within the writing itself! You don’t have to write separate sentences so you can run on. For example:
Sarah’s my name but when I was at school I wanted to be called
Emerald. Later my daughter had a rabbit by that name.
Pets were a big part of my childhood, I dreamt about
Training them to do tricks as if I was a circus grandmaster,
Even though none of our dogs or cats ever did anything I wanted,
My optimism was unbroken. Perhaps a guinea pig would…
And so on. I had forgotten all about my very unsuccessful animal training school until I started to write this! I wonder what will come out for you…
- What do you want to be doing in September 2019? Date your journal a year from now, set your alarm for 10 minutes and write an entry of your ideal day as if you were actually living it now. Don’t hold back, try to imagine everything. It’s this day in a year’s time so be specific. What will you do at breakfast, how will you spend the day? Concentrate on how you want to feel. Go back to the senses too… what can you smell? What can you hear? Then after you’ve finished, read back and highlight three things that have real energy for you. Make a list of small steps you can do now to bring those into your life.
Sarah Salway is a poet, novelist and journalist from Kent. She facilitates writing and wellbeing workshops for groups and mentors individuals. She particularly loves working with people who don’t think they can write! With Anna Robertshaw of Retreat Yoga, she set up Mat and Page, workshops combining yoga and journal writing.
For more information on forthcoming writing and wellbeing workshops click here now to see Sarah’s website for more inspiration or email her directly at email@example.com.
Morning Pages Reference link here
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Many thanks to Sarah for her stunning inspiration.