Journaling,  Uncategorized

Journaling: P = Prompts (visual)

Some people have no problem sitting down to journal. They write whatever pops into their mind. Others struggle with the blank page. 

Prompts provide the reluctant writer a  bit of structure.

A simple Google or Pinterest search will yield more than enough writing prompts to last two lifetimes. But it is easy enough to develop prompts on your own. 

Today I will discuss how to use the Visual Arts as journal prompts. Tomorrow I will focus on Literary Arts.

I love the expression: A picture is worth a thousand words. Photographs and paintings tell a story of a singular moment in time. But what about the context of that story? What happened before that decisive moment? What transpired afterward?

Family photos are a great way to brainstorm key stories that connect the pieces of our lives. Whether interested in writing a memoir, or delving into a difficult past, photographs help us recall specific details we otherwise forgot.

Likewise, works of art capture the pure emotion in a scene, although in a different context than our personal narrative. The lighting elicits a familiar mood, or the colors recall a certain time and place. The relation of objects to one another bring to mind past relationships, both joyful and sad. Facial expressions mirror how we feel.
Abstract art, still life or landscapes can have the same affect. By looking at the painting through the lens of our personal narrative we are inspired with ideas to explore in our journals.  

Of course, the visual arts also provide great prompts for creative writing too. I enjoy visiting Flea Markets and looking through old forgotten photographs. I typically purchase a few that capture my eye, then return home to create the life story for these strangers.

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A few years ago I developed the concept of writing Milestone Memoirs: marrying one picture (worth 1,000 words) with one 250 word essay to create a meaningful narrative for future generations. A collection of fifty of photo essays would make a nice keepsake book, don’t you think?

Up next: Q is for Quotes (as prompts) 


  • Mandy 'n' Justin

    I think art provides fantastic prompts. Actually, the pictures I take and share on my blog often prompt what I share. And, of course, if I know I'm going to blog about something I'm photographing, I attempt to take better/more photographs, so that they back one another up. But that's not to say that I believe photographs are only useful for nonfiction; they are also wonderful for fictional writing too. Like you said, writers can question what happened before the artwork became? What's going on in the picture? Why? … Great post!

    With Love,

  • Trudy

    My head is spinning with the ideas your post stimulated. I consistently keep a journal, but now I'm thinking of numerous ways I can use visual arts–especially photographs–to jump start and enhance some entries. Thanks for the ideas!

    Trudy @ Reel Focus
    Food in Film: Pancakes

  • Tamara Gerber

    While I was never a fan of image descriptions as essay prompts in high school, today I do like prompts of any kind for creative writing. So much that most of my blogging goes into writing challenges (like this one).

  • Gail M Baugniet - Author

    Your comments today have given me so many wonderful ideas for writing projects, Molly, that my head is spinning. I am deep into writing a genealogical novel based on the 16 extended lines of my family tree. Although I don't have many photos, you have given me the idea to imagine . . .

  • lorig

    I think the collection of essays would make a fun book. I like visual prompts to help tell a specific story. It is the reason I started scrapbooking. I have learned visual prompts can be use far beyond just recording what happened.

  • My Cozy Book Nook

    What a wonderful project, Gail! I have a similar one in the works, although on a much smaller scale: my husband's grandmother whose family immigrated from Italy. We know precious little about her younger life, so I hope to fill in lots of gaps with some historical fiction.

    Glad my post inspired you 🙂

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