Creative Journal Writing – the art and heart of reflection

Following this afternoon’s presentation on Reflective Writing and Teachers as Writers, for the NSW Department of Education Statewide Virtual Staff Meeting, I thought it might be useful to mention some of the most effective activities from Stephanie Dowrick’s book Creative Journal Writing – the art and heart of reflection.

Although aimed at an adult audience, these writing strategies are readily adapted for the secondary classroom. You might like to try these first yourself, or write while your students write.

Let the clock stop: Write down, thinking at whatever pace suits you best, exactly what you would do (or not do), begin, achieve or complete if the clock stopped. Or if time no longer mattered. When you come back to this exercise, write down all your associations with time, then repeat the first part of the exercise. Any changes?

Wordjuggling: Take a paragraph from your journal. Break up the lines. Move words around if that feels right. See how different they look and feel when they are placed in an unfamiliar relationship with one another. This is a chance not just to see your own words differently, but also to play with words and surrender to their magic.

Free drawing: free drawing follows the same principles as free drawing.

  • allow yourself to choose colours as well as images instinctively
  • keep going – don’t stop to analyse
  • if one drawing leads to another in a free associating kind of way, follow the trail
  • when you have finished the drawing or drawings, let them ‘rest’ – don’t try to decide what they mean there and then
  • you may want to finish by writing about how you feel, what emotions came up, what surprised you. If writing after drawing, keep you commentary to observations of the process only.

Exploring home: Choose one prompt. Allow yourself time to reflect on it before writing. Once you begin, let yourself write instinctively and freely. No stopping to edit or rewrite.

  • When I think of the word home I …
  • My first home was …
  • For me home means …
  • My ideal home is …
  • I feel ‘at home’ when …
  • When I think about home I remember …
  • The smells of home are …
  • the most important room for me in any house is …
  • For me home is not a place at all …
  • My idea of home changed when …
  • The objects in my home I’d rescue first are …
  • The idea of home extends way beyond four walls …

Lots about nothing: Choose instinctively from the following prompts. Return to the same topic until you are confident that you really have got something out of ‘nothing’.

  • Nothing right now feels like …
  • Nothing is a big blanket that lets me hide from …
  • I hate it when I ask people what’s wrong and they say ‘Nothing’
  • You’re a big nothing …
  • The best time I ever had doing nothing was when …
  • If nothing could smell it would smell like …
  • If nothing had a taste it would be …
  • If I were to hold nothing in my hands it would feel like …
  • I envy people who have time to do nothing …

end with this sentence: Nothing turned into …

*image from Allen & Unwin

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