To my mind, one of the coolest uses of journal writing is playing with words. When you sit down to write something, usually there’s some reason for doing so, something you want to communicate to someone. In your journal, that someone is yourself. Still, you write because you have an urge to share ideas, stories, feelings, and the like.
Now think about this: before you communicate or share (even with yourself), maybe it would be enlightening to explore more fully the way words – the building blocks of your communications – work, and the extent of their power.
Most of us use words we’re accustomed to, the words we use in speech and that habitually run through our brains. But if we stop for a moment and let imagination play around those words, it’s fun to discover what we didn’t know we knew.
So try a session or two of journaling around word play.
1. Synonyms – Start with any old word you want. Like, for example, kitchen or purple or homesick. Then write as many synonyms as you can think of, or make up. For instance:
kitchen – cooking place, hearth, oven, stove, food preparation station, yummy creation room
purple – dark blue, lavender, violet, royal color, work color, sunset, old ladies hue
homesick – lost, afraid, disconnected, sad, lonely, blue
2. Antonyms – Try coming up with words that are the opposite of what you start with. Such as:
kitchen – bathroom, bedroom, desert, swimming pool, anorexic, fast
purple – black, white, foggy, pink, colorless, drab
homesick – comfortable, secure, loved, connected, confident
3. Free association – Now let your imagination open to whatever naturally connects to the word as you freely let it roam around your mind:
kitchen – flavors, warmth, work, creativity, memories
purple – velvet, crowns, grandma, veins, grapes, mountains
homesick – nausea, fear, melancholy, Mom, friends, yesterday, the past
How does this kind of exercise help you? I can think of a few ways it can make us stronger and happier.
- It lets us appreciate the world around us more fully. It is no longer just a kitchen, but a locus of satisfying experiences.
- It opens us to a wider understanding of our life. Now purple is not just a color (an adjective describing something), but it has become a range of impressions and feelings.
- It helps put our obsessions in context. No longer do we simply feel homesick; now we see more clearly why we feel that way and what we might do about it.
You may have thought that journaling was all about your life and experiences, but even more fundamentally, journal writing is about words and the energy that they contain. Play around with them intentionally, every now and then. You’ll realize their power and possibilities, and open up ever more enthusiastically to their inherent magic.
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