Journal Prompts (what’s next?)

The alarm rang at 3:30 a.m. The ride to the airport would leave in an hour, so I struggled out of sleep and into the shower. On the ride to Chicago’s airport the sky shifted from black to dark blue, moving silhouettes to three-dimensional forms.

The sky is not yet light when we get on the plane. A truck pushes the plane back from the gate, and the plane begins to roll forward, gathering momentum. Then, as the pilot checks her controls, she brakes and checks the flaps. We roll forward and the plan makes a Haloween-moaning sound. As the pilot hits the brakes, the plane slews and squeals. My stomach lurches. That’s not supposed to happen. The pilot’s voice comes on the intercom, “We seem to have a problem in the auto-brake, and while we can take off without using it, we can’t land again at National without it. And the runway at National isn’t forgiving, so we’re returning to the gate to have someone look at it.”

I’m grateful for a cautious pilot. But I begin to wonder, and I write down a few questions. They are not meant to be morbid or stir the fear in you. They are questions that we need to answer sooner rather than later. And, of course, they make good journal prompts.

–To live a complete life, one without regret, there are things I must do. Sure, I’d love to travel extensively, but let’s say I have one week left to live. What should I do in that week?

–What important thing must I say to [my significant other, my child] that they must know while I can still say it to them in person?

— If I were on a plane, and had to leave a note that would be read to all my friends when I’m gone, it would say. . . .

–If I had a few minutes left to live on a plane, and there is no one on the plane I know, I would. . .

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach who teaches journal-writing. See more at