Part of the reason I love to read is the impact a good book can have on my life. I know I’ve been going on and on about one particular book I’ve read recently and how hard it has been to move past it once it’s over.
Something I haven’t written much about here is journaling and how it has become part of my reading life. Because a good book isn’t one that just makes you keep turning the pages until it’s over, it’s one that keeps the thoughts it inspired long after you finish it. I have compiled a number of journaling prompts for readers that I like to use myself.
Here are some of my favorite journaling prompts for readers:
- The Check-in: One of the hardest parts of finishing a book is letting go of the characters. The same way it’s possible to dialogue through journaling with parts of ourselves (critic, scared parts, etc) it’s also possible to check in with a beloved character later on. Try writing with two different pen colors. Ask them how they are, what they are up to, what ended up happening to them after the book was over. Then write the response in another color pen. I Perhaps you nay-sayers won’t trust this input, but I love this idea. We don’t always get a sequel to satisfy our longing to know how a character ended up later on.
- Advice: Sometimes I read a book and find myself wanting to take on aspects of a character. This could be for any number of reasons. I could love their fashion sense- Henry and June always has me wanting to ride bicycles in dresses with slips and garter belts around the country side- or I could love a character’s approach to life. One of my heroes of literature is Lottie Wilkins from Enchanted April. I watch the movie or read the book every April. But sometimes, I’d just like Lottie’s advice. I can either do a back and forth dialogue like the suggestion above, or I can really get into it and write Lottie a letter. Two ways to go about this- just write the letter in your journal, or you can go whole hog and write a letter and mail it (to your own address) to the character. When the letter arrives, take some time to get in to character as the character. Maybe go to a cafe or somewhere this character would like to be. Then read your letter and respond to it. I say mail it back. The advice will have had a few days to percolate by then and you may be amazed at how spot on it is once you get your letter back. Bonus points for beautiful stationery and pens!
- The Quote Entry Point: For the less woo-woo of you, this one will feel more reasonable. Pick a favorite quote from the book and copy it, word for word, at the top of a fresh journal page. Then free-write on anything that comes up. What inspired you about this passage, how you want it to impact you, and anything else that comes to mind. You may veer away from the book or stay right with your passage the whole time. Either way, whatever comes is a great way to digest your book and take it out into your life beyond the page.
- The List: Oh how I love me a list. And sometimes book- especially nonfiction ones- work best with a list. When I’m reading nonfiction books, I do like keeping a list while reading so I don’t forget the tips and suggestions I’m reading. You know the feeling- “I’m so fired up! This book is going to change my life!” Then, cut to two weeks later “I loved that book- what was it about again?” So keep a list whenever you read something that inspires you. I also like to keep a Commonplace Book in my Traveler’s Notebook of inspiring quotes and ideas. Yum. In addition, I like to make a list of ideas or things I want to try after I finish a book that really moved me- this makes more sense for fiction. Items are a little more “Write that letter I’ve been meaning to send for three years” than “Start using software to track spending.”
Do you journal in connection with the books you’re reading? Please share any prompts or exercises you love in the comments below, or drop me a line at caroline[at]book-dr[dot]com