Start With a Word

a word that says it all, a word that needs to be set down on paper and made plain

Before I explain the concept of word journaling, I would like to offer a little personal background on the significance of the single word to the journaling experience. Indulge me, please, or go ahead and scroll to the third paragraph.

I’ve spent the last year trying to increase participation in my Healing Journey writing group at a local cancer center. My efforts have failed. Thus, the idealism with which I began this project has dwindled into discouragement tinged with unpleasant surprise at the lack of interest. Don’t get me wrong–I am very grateful for those who  participate, and I relish our time together. However, like any group facilitator, I would like more participants! One of the ways I have tried to achieve this is by talking to patients in the waiting room about the emotional and physical benefits of journaling (yes, physical!).

When I visit with the patients, I encourage them to journal by emphasizing the fact that filling pages–even 1 page–isn’t always necessary to reap the benefits. In other words, journaling doesn’t have to feel like “school work” (as several people have expressed to me). I tell them that a journal entry can be a single word–a word that says it all, a word that needs to be set down on paper and made plain, a word that might later lead to reflection and inspire one or more longer entries. Just a word.

Granted, to reap the benefits mentioned and linked to above, you do need to engage in deep, personal exploration, longer expressive writing. At the same time, you don’t want journaling to feel like a chore, and you don’t want to force it. Write as often and as much as you feel like. Write on your own terms. If that’s simply a word, start and stop there. More will come naturally.

If you want to try your hand at “word journaling” as a starting point for personal exploration, one way to move your journaling from the single word to longer entries is to list words associated with the single word. This exercise will help you uncover the many facets of an experience or feeling your word represents, which will encourage deep reflection and, in turn, lead you to a better understanding of and a new perspective on the experience or feeling. You can make your word journaling more interesting and creative (and more cognitively beneficial to boot) by coming up with words that begin with the letters of your starting word. If you’re keen to try some creative writing, this will provide you with a foundation for writing an acrostic poem, as shown in the photo.

If you’re interested in writing an acrostic poem based on your word journaling, be aware that each line after the first doesn’t have to begin a new sentence, as shown in the example from my previous post.

I like to encourage my fellow journalers to enrich their journaling experience and enhance their expressive voices by using their journal entries as inspiration for poetry–in other words, to journal their way into a poem. The one-word entry leading to the acrostic poem is one way to accomplish this. And it might be the best way for someone new to writing poetry because it provides a structure, making the entry into writing poetry a bit more comfortable and certain.

So start with a word and see where it takes you!

*Feel free to share your word and anything that grows from it in the comments section*
If you would like to share your writing privately, please do so here.


2 thoughts on “Start With a Word

  1. Very nice! A single word can be a very helpful focus, even for those of us who are sometimes more verbose!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Paul! It would be an interesting experiment, so to speak, to see how much verbosity can flow from a single word 🙂

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