Journal Writing Basics: Ask How

by Amber Lea Starfire on April 23, 2011

catnav-journaling-activePost #36 – Memoir Writing, Journaling – Amber Starfire
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questionI have often written that journaling is a good way to gain clarity about your life, and that it helps you to move through and understand emotional issues. If you are new to journal writing, you may be wondering how to go about this process of clarity and understanding, or how writing down what you already know makes anything clearer.

I’ll let you in on a little, three-letter, one-word secret. When you want to move from simply recording the events in your life to understanding them on a deeper level, ask, “How?” (How is also short for, “In what ways?”)

Though journaling prompts typically ask “why,” I have discovered that “how” can be a more powerful tool for unearthing hidden thoughts, feelings, and associations. And a “how” can replace the “why” in almost any question. For example,

  • Why How (in what ways) is this event or thought or feeling or memory important to me?
  • Why How does this bother me?
  • Why How did this happen?
  • Why How does this remind me of another time in my life?

Additionally, “how” can be used to form questions that “why” cannot.

  • How (in what ways) can I learn (or am I learning) from this?
  • How does writing about this event influence my thoughts about it?
  • How do I want to remember this day?
  • How does my thinking about this event influence my responses?

Increase the power of this journaling tool by using it to drill deeper — continue to ask “how” of any responses you write to a previous question.

Using my first question above, if I answer, “This feeling of anger is important to me because it helps me protect myself from future hurt, and it makes me feel more in control than feeling helpless does,” I will then ask a “how” question for each of my responses. “How does anger help me protect myself from future hurt?” and “How does anger make me feel more in control?”

I might then write, “Anger helps me protect myself because it causes me to be more alert, to be less trusting, and to make sure I always have a ‘Plan B’”. And, “It makes me feel more in control because it gives me energy and helps me to take action.”

Continue to ask “how” questions until your feel that you’ve learned something new about yourself or reached some core emotional truth.

Try this technique, then leave a comment and let us know: How did it go?

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For more about ways to journal, writing tips, and prompts, be sure to connect with Amber on Writing Through Life.

reflective journaling

Image Credit: Helga Weber
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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Matilda Butler April 23, 2011 at

Thanks Amber for this post. It is helpful in turning journaling into a tool for greater self-awareness.

Amber Lea Starfire April 23, 2011 at

Thanks, Matilda. Self-awareness is, for me, one of the greatest benefits of regular journaling.

Ann Carbine Best April 23, 2011 at

Asking How does indeed help one focus more clearly on the deeper emotionally issues. Thanks for this informative and helpful post!

Amber Lea Starfire April 23, 2011 at

Thank you, Ann. :-)

Rigmor Munkvold April 23, 2011 at

I like the idea of substituting the why for how. The word “how ” has more positive energy behind it. Thank you

Susan Godwin April 23, 2011 at

Many thanks to Pamela Jane Bell for “The Places We’ve lived.”
As a result, I wrote for over an hour on my wonderful childhood home. I then took out old pictures of the house, copied them, and have a letter written to the occupants along with the pictures to show them what their home looked liked, when it was first built in 1954!
Thanks so much for the suggestion!

Susan Godwin

Amber Lea Starfire April 24, 2011 at

You’re welcome, Rigmore. Yes, I think it’s more postive, too. Instead of looking for the “cause” of things, we examine the effects instead.

Dawn Herring April 25, 2011 at

Amber,
I love this “how” approach! It forces you in a gentle way to dig deeper and get to the core issues at hand. This technique is bound to be successful with an honest and open heart. Plus you provide some fabulous prompts to get started, like you always do. :)

I have chosen your post, Journal Writing Basics: Ask How, for the #JournalChat Pick of the Day on 4/25/11 for all things journaling on Twitter. I will post a link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and my blog, Refresh with Dawn Herring.

My @JournalChat account on Twitter is for all things journaling.

Thanks again for sharing this “how” technique for journal writing. :)

Be refreshed,
Dawn Herring
JournalWriter Freelance
@JournalChat on Twitter for all things journaling

Amber Lea Starfire April 25, 2011 at

Thanks, Dawn. It’s always an honor to be selected for #JournalChat Pick of the Day!

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