I miss my Grandmother. She led a very interesting life, but now I cannot ask her questions. I want to hear everything about her gas station wedding and being married to a coal miner. You know what would have been wonderful? What if my grandmother had kept a journal? It would be amazing to hold her words in my hands and read about her life. So much feeling and detail can come through in writing. So, I have decided my journal is important, not just for my own personal growth, but also to pass a part of myself onto my children.
I want to share some writing prompts, some ideas to get your muse singing. First, however, let’s talk about the journal itself. You want something durable, but also something you are comfortable with. Every writer will have his or her own preference. Me? I like a spiral bound journal with lined pages. I also have a weakness for parchment style paper and unique designs. Take a little trip to Barnes and Noble or Books-a-Million. Both have wonderful selections of hard cover notebooks, perfect for saving your memories. You can also find specialty journals online. Do a search. You’ll be amazed at the variety. Some of these books even come with prompts at the top of each page and inspirational quotes to keep you going. If you are more comfortable scribbling in a composition book like you used in school; that is fine as well. One other option is the computer. If you need a delete key and perfectly readable print, you can save beautiful journal pages on your own hard drive or through a web-based journal site. However, keep in mind that there is something more personal and human about the written word.
Now, you have the perfect notebook to preserve the past in. You have chosen a pen that is comfortable to write with, and you are ready to rock. Before you start stressing over what to write, remember this: Your child is not an editor. Got that? They don’t care if you mess up some grammar or if your words don’t echo Shakespeare. Turn off your inner-critic and tune into the muse. She’ll be happy to see you.
Twenty-Five Prompts for a Parent to Child journal:
1. What is your favorite song? Record the lyrics in your journal and explain what the song means to you.
2. Think back to moments of celebration in your life; graduation, birthdays, etc… Which is the most memorable? Who was there and what did you do? What makes it so special?
3. At some point, we all leave home. Sometimes it’s for college, marriage or just to get out on our own. When and why did you leave home? What was it like to return for a visit after living away?
4. What was your first paying job? Where did you work? Did you get along with your bosses and coworkers? What did you learn from the experience?
5. Did you ever baby-sit before you had children? What were some funny experiences? Do you think caring for others’ children prepared you in any way for your own? Are there things you thought about kids that changed when you had your own?
6. Open your dictionary to a random page. Choose a word and write down any memory it may spark?
7. Have you ever said something to one of your children (or about them) that you never thought you’d hear yourself say? Why did you say it?
8. Choose an event from your life and write about it, recording every detail. Now, write about the event from the point of view of someone else that was with you or from the point of view of a casual observer.
9. If you were writing your autobiography, what title would you choose? What would you call the chapters? Write your introduction.
10. Did one or both of your parents ever tell you a lie? Did another grown-up you trusted ever lie to you? Even if it is a small thing, write about it.
11. What is the last thing you laughed about? Who made you laugh?
12. Put yourself into your child’s shoes. Write about yourself from their viewpoint.
13. The type of books/magazines you enjoy or don’t enjoy say a lot about who you are. Write about your favorite books. Are there any books or magazines that you just don’t care for? What are they and why?
14. Styles are always changing. What did you wear in high school? How do you feel about clothing in stores right now?
15. Think back to family meal times. What foods are brought to mind? Who cooked the best in your family? What was your favorite treat?
16. Choose one of your childhood pictures. Paste it into the journal and write about it. Where were you and what had you been doing before the shot was taken? How do you feel about the picture now that you are looking back on it?
17. Do you keep a memory box or have a scrapbook from childhood/high school? Choose a memento that you hang onto and write about that.
18. Lists can be therapeutic and fun sometimes. Make a few. List things that make you smile and things you remember laughing about growing up. List your dreams for your children and some cute things they have done and said.
19. Think about the following activities: Tying your shoes, Making Pancakes, Painting your Fingernails, Braiding Hair, Playing Hopscotch, Watching Scary Movies. Give yourself time and space to write about the memories/images provoked by each.
20. Write a brief description of your mother and then a brief description of your father. If you were to describe yourself, how similar would it be to what you wrote about your parents?
21. Close your eyes and remember your grade school. Who was your favorite teacher? What games did you play on the playground? Who was your first crush?
22. It’s time to tell about firsts. List them to begin with and then expand on each item. Just to get you started: First Kiss, First Love, First Car and First Vacation.
23. When you pass on, this journal will be left behind. What is its purpose? What do you want your children to know about you and what advice do you want to leave for them?
24. Have you ever been pampered? Maybe you spent a day at the spa or won a shopping spree. What was it like? If you can’t recall anything, what would you do if you got the chance to be pampered this way?
25. Let’s talk about the Tooth Fairy. And the Easter Bunny. Oh, and Santa Clause, of course. Did you believe in them when you were little? When did you stop? Why?
Now, you have no excuses left. Barbara Kingsolver once said, “Don’t wait for the muse. She has a lousy work ethic. Writers just write.” So, write.