Journal Writing | Leaders Notes


Keeping a journal is one of the very best ways of being in the world, it gives you space to express and discover who you are, and it also allows you to view the world and work in a way that builds your writing muscles. Think of it at what athletes do in between races. Writers on the other hand often seem to only want to be in the big races and not do the training in between. The secret to writing is turning up and writing often, journalling is how we can do that in a wonderful, expressive way that is full of discovery and meaning.

Leading a group

Before we begin I’d like to put down a few guidelines on how you might conduct your sessions so that they are of benefit to all.

Create a safe space for everyone to work in

This means that there is trust and confidentiality about the working of the group.

It means that no pressure is put on anyone to share their writing. Journalling should not really be shared, it is a process of self and artistic discovery and not sharing too much actually means you can take greater risks.

Equal time and care and attention must be given to each of the group, create a quick contract on how the group will work, ie no grabbing the space by emotional grasping, that each person is equally important, that there is no pressure to share, that we encourage each other… decide for yourselves some basic good loving guidelines.


The spirit of simple human love and straightforwardness goes a long long way.

Mutual respect

Everyone is responsible for themselves in terms of behaviour, bringing their notebook and pen, for being on time, for being part of the group.


  • Prompt No 1.

    This is a 15 minute timed writing.

    Please use the basic rules/guidelines of journalling to move you along: 

    Once you start writing, keep writing don’t stop.

    If you get stuck use a repeating phrase ‘I remember’ or ‘I don’t remember’ something from the piece you are writing.

    Write as specifically as possible, don’t say It was nice, it was beautiful. Describe what it was about the thing that was it’s beauty. Don’t say car, say Jaguar. Don’t say bird, say Blackbird. If you don’t know make it up, it is allowed.. It’s called fiction.

    Don’t worry about spelling, handwriting, grammar etc. 

    This is a stupid little writing exercise and is not important, don’t try to write the greatest piece of writing ever, it is fine if it is boring or junk.

    The prompt:

    Most people want to write their story, to tell it like it is, one of the greatest ways of healing is by looking outwards and studying the world. Telling our version of what happened too often, usually makes the world smaller, and allows us and others to trade on our perceived vulnerability. The more interest we take in the world, the bigger our world becomes. So for this writing session I’d like you to write about a room you spent a very happy or contented time in, but to describe it only in sound. Do not write about how it makes you feel, this is just about describing in sound. Sounds tough? That’s the fun of it! Why bother doing something you can already do, there is nothing learned by that. 15 minutes, I remember… GO!!!

  • The next few sessions will concentrate on some wide ranging subjects, the purpose behind them is so that you can build up your writing muscles, and learn about your own writing eye, and ear. I’d like you to really focus on being specific, like we discussed last time. Name things, people etc, don’t just say you love something or someone, or you hate etc. Show us why specifically.

    Prompt #2

    As I write to you, I’m sitting in a cafe by the Ganges in Rishikesh in India. My own trusty journal is next to me. Though it is so wonderful here, It has for my wife and I been a sad week with the death of the singer David Bowie. My first real memory of him was seeing a video for a song called Ashes To Ashes on a music programme called Top of The Pops, I guess this would be around 1979. He was important to me because I was the weird kid in my family, and even more so at school. This song stood out from the rest of the chart music so much that there was no way to miss it, and for people like me there was suddenly room in the world to explore our ideas, art and intuitions. You may or may not have heard of him depending on your age, or culture, but for today’s writing prompt, I’d like for you to write about a song or an musician, or singer that really means something to you, and tell us a story if possible.


  • The next few sessions will concentrate on some wide ranging subjects, the purpose behind them is so that you can build up your writing muscles, and learn about your own writing eye, and ear. I’d like you to really focus on being specific, like we discussed last time. Name things, people etc, don’t just say you love something or someone, or you hate etc. Show us why specifically.

    Prompt #3

    I’ve never met a person who didn’t love something. Even when I used to work in prison as a writer in residence, or when I worked with ex gang members in LA, I found everyone had something they cared about. So this prompt sounds like an easy one, but give it your all.. Are you ready!!! Write about what love means to you. Get it down on the page, it’s a slippery subject, given that it is probably the most talked about subject of all time, it might be a subject you can return to over and again. Everyone’s experience and meaning will be different, and yet love is universal. Enjoy the paradoxes.

  • I’m on a train to Delhi right now with the Indian countryside whizzing by. It’s just into the afternoon, and we’re going through a zone of land where tall tall grasses, higher than a very tall man, is moving gently in the sun. I remember the last scene of Pather Panchali, where Apu and his sister Durga are watching the train from the long grass, they are looking to their freedom and their futures. I look hard from the window to see if I can see them.

    So for today’s writing prompt perhaps try using this line as your repeating or bouncing line, ‘I’m on a train to…’ And if you feel like trying a different way try ‘I remember…,’ or come up with something of your own.

    Check out my daily travel journal on Instagram @johnsiddique and learn more about my work at


  • 1 

    This week we’re at the movies, I love the cinema, especially when we do things our own way. We always sneak out own cake or food in. I like films that are good for the heart, and that don’t insult the intelligence, I also love good sci-fi. I remember being in my twenties, I was in training to be a Buddhist monk in those days, really… It never came to pass however, but that is a long and complex tale. One night I went to watch Terminator, the first one, at the movies. After two hours of Arnie and his relentless cyborg self, I knew I was not one for the quiet life.

    For today’s prompt I’d like you to tell us about a trip to the movies, perhaps when you were a kid, or with your family, or on your own. Or maybe the kinds of films you like. Okay 10 minutes, keep writing… GO!

    ‘I remember…’

  • Stuck

    Three days of Delhi belly, aching limbs and a fear of eating any food in case it starts me off again. We were supposed to leave two days ago, but there is no way I can travel right now. However we are fortunate to be sitting in the sun in a balcony overlooking the river, at the next table are an American couple, the next next table two people from Japan. The internationalism is something I love so much about being here.

    Today’s writing prompt is to write about a time when you couldn’t leave somewhere because of an enforced reason, because of illness or because of duty. ‘I remember,’ is a good repeat to use to help you, but you could also try using a few words or a line from the piece you are writing as it unfolds.


  • Writing About Writing

    So here you are with your notebook and pen. In a room alone or with others. You look around gathering thoughts, as the pen moves to the page. For today’s prompt I’d like you to write about what writing means to you. Don’t write some nice school report kind of thing, go for it and say what it really means to you. No one ever need know, the journal is the best place for these secrets and lives. For me it has been everything from exorcist to lover, from the road to truth to the deepest joy of lying my ass off. Tell the page about your relationship with it.

    Check out my visual & written journal on Instagram @johnsiddique and learn more about my work at


  • A Long Journey

    Waiting: It is a fact of life that we spend a lot of time just waiting. Creativity in a lot of ways is how we deal with that time. It’s just taken me over 30 hours to get back to UK from India. Sleepless stopovers, conversations with strangers and bad expensive food.  For today’s prompt, I’d like to to reflect on a time or times you have experienced waiting’s grip, can be for something tedious like airports, could be the moments before meeting the love of your life. Write your pages…. 

    With kindness

    John Siddique


    From A Tiny Sleeping Cubicle In Delhi Airport.

  • A Change of Prompt

    Usually I encourage you to write using ‘I remember,’ or ‘I don’t remember’ as a trigger to bounce your journal writing along. Today I’d like to throw something different and just as powerful at you, but it works in a different way. It is both the writing prompt, and the repeating phrase.. are you ready with your pen and page.. alright then – 


    With kindness

    John Siddique

    Learn more about my work at

  • Letter To A Place You Love

    So for this week, I’d love it if your journalling centred around things you love about a place, this city, or somewhere you miss. The old ‘I remember’ repeating phrase might be a good one to use for this, but please use this idea to jump to your own ideas. 


  • Remember the ridiculous things we used to get asked to write in school – What We Did During Our Holiday etc.

    Today’s prompt is to actually do it, write what 8 year old you really got up to. and I was was thinking it would be really fun to do it in third person so that you have some distance.

    Write what she really thought. Not we had a nice time… but She sat in grease stinking cafe with a cone plate of chips and two undercooked eggs, in fact everyone at every table had chips…

    you get the idea.. Tell the truth, tell great big fictiony lies.. but most of all enjoy the pen moving on the paper, enjoy this time writing, daydreaming, remembering, and don’t worry about if it’s any good, or making a statement, just write.

  • Often when we talk about reflection in art and writing we mean the emotional response or the ideas sparked from observing our subject, be that self, other or out in the world. Driving along today though I found myself glancing reflections in windows, I sometimes get caught up in reflections when I walk through cities.. And I see other people in what looks like window shopping mode but you can see they are really communing with themselves. For today’s piece I’d like you to commune with various reflections of yourself. That could be one constant reflection, or more cubist, made up from multiple mirrorings.


  • 7 Prompts

    Write about:

    Sunday afternoon

    A time someone said no

    Standing in a doorway

    A year after you left us…

    The moon seen in daylight

    Taking a bath

    Once, when no one was looking

    Pick one and GO! Use the rest for the rest of the week.


  • On this beautiful sunny morning I would like to encourage you to write about walking in someone else’s shoes. Is there someone in the coffee shop that has caught your attention? Was there someone on the walk here?  

    Imagine their morning, their life, their thoughts, which coffee they like….

    Now begin. 


     2 3 5

  • Today’s prompt can either be about your journey towards well being and aligning with your highest truth, or it can just be a simple writing riff, memory or fiction.

    All set…

    ‘A year ago…’

    Looking forward to seeing many of you in at Wise Words in a week or so. Please do come and join me on the journalling day retreat. I would love to meet you and hear about your weekly journalling.

  • Today’s prompt is about moments of inspiration – moments that resonated, challenged or reminded you of something important in your life. It could be something someone said or something you saw – a talk or performance or a beautiful view. A moment that you wanted to hold close to your heart and not forget. 

    Was there a moment at Wise Words that was of particular importance or particularly inspiring to you? 

    Now begin…



    What in your life is calling you?

    When your daily to do list is complete, work is over, the meals cooked, the children in bed and book laid aside, what still calls to you? Perhaps its someone, something, an unfulfilled opportunity, a wish, a dream or an aspiration….

    Now begin. 



    It is easy to become overwhelmed by the violence, hate and fear that seems to be dominating the news at the moment – to feel helpless in the face of such adversity. 

    What do you do, or could you do, to reignite hope and joy within yourself and those around you?