How to Jumpstart Your Personal Writing

Writing for one’s self can be awfully important, but sometimes it isn’t easy. As soon as you tell yourself you’re going to write, grab your pen and paper and prepare to write, all of those incredible thoughts you had vanish.

Even many well-known writers report suffering from writer’s block when faced with a blank page.  They may be tired or unmotivated, doubting themselves, trying too hard to make something perfect or fearing failure.

Not only professional writers, but also the rest of us are often blocked even before we begin to write.  However, you can create your own source of inspiration to jumpstart your writing.  This renewed writing may have far reaching benefits too.

Poet William Stafford makes it appear that personal writing is not only easy but also urgently needed.  Scattered thoughts that you have written in your journal over time may ultimately offer you new-found meaning.  This excerpt from his poem Keeping A Journal explains.

At night it was easy for me….
to sit late recording what happened that day….
More important than what was recorded, these evenings
deepened my life ….
As time went on…. everything
recognized itself and passed into meaning.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist Way, reminds us that we don’t need anyone’s approval or endorsement when we write for ourselves.  “Put pen on paper and keep writing…Get out of the way.  Let it work through you.  Accumulate pages, not judgements.”

Walt Whitman is supposed to have kept a box of his written snippets on scraps of paper.  When the box filled, he grabbed some of the scraps for inspiration. If nothing worked at that moment, he put them back in the box for another time.

South Carolina poet Susan Meyers described her Word Bank, a box or jar filled with words and phrases that caught her eye.  She printed them on small pieces of paper or cut examples out of magazines, newspapers, junk mail or personal memos. When she needed inspiration, she would draw a few words and notice how they fell together creating new meaning.

Poet and publisher Diane Lockward described her Bits Journal in her blog as “a collection of random images, childhood memories, dreams, snatches of overheard conversations, quotes from books or lectures, bathroom graffiti, mistranslations, thoughts that come out of left field, notes to yourself, etc.”

Instead of a box, Lockward keeps her “bits” on a word document on her computer.

“The bits journal is easy to fill. If you add three or four bits a week, in a couple of months your journal will be five or six pages long.”

My own “Word Box/Bits Journal” is contained in several boxes and a couple of file folders.  They include a wide assortment of clipped images on glossy colored paper, cartoons and lists of words I’ve had to look up as well as intriguing metaphors – words that create imagery in my mind.

If collecting your own prompts isn’t for you, you’ll find enough inspiration in a couple of books that will keep you writing for as long as you wish.  Here are two of my current favorite books.

A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion & Lively Muse for the Writing Life by Judy Reeves, writing teacher, creativity workshop leader and cofounder of the non-profit literary arts organization, San Diego Writers Ink, has over 245 pages divided into 12 months of articles and daily prompts, cross-referenced throughout to help you explore the topics she covers.

A new book from the Network for Grateful Living named Everyday Gratitude: Inspiration for Living Life as a Gift just published this month, includes one colorful hand-drawn affirmation with its source along with a unique and thoughtful writing prompt on every page.

Both books can be accessed at

Your journal can be much more than simply a recording of your day.  Each entry is a new opportunity to add depth to your life in ways you can hardly imagine at the time.  Authentic inner conversations with yourself on paper can act as your North Star guiding you home to your True Self.

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Journal Therapist, Susan leads small groups and workshops for personal writing and is also an online instructor for The Writing Institute. Visit to read all of Susan’s previous articles in the Columbia Star Newspaper. 

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