Yesterday, my friend Marit said she was “waving from her journal page to mine,” and I thought, “what a great idea!” Need something to focus on? Need a jumpstart on writing?
Dialog can intersect and circle around, like this path in King’s County (Washington)
This is more than a journal prompt. It’s not a word to write about, it’s a whole technique. And it’s powerful. Let’s get started:
1. Warm up by focusing on your emotions: Right now, I feel [fill in the blank.] One word may be all you need.
2. The reason I feel [blank] in 20 words: [describe how you reached this emotion.]
3. Almost always, someone else is involved in this story about your emotion. Whether you are happy, anxious, excited, or skeptical, most of our emotions are connected to other people, often for reasons we don’t understand.
4. Use the next page to write a dialog between you and the other person. Writing dialog means you will make things up. That’s fine. You want to figure out a reason for the emotion and what your role is and what the other person’s role is. By putting words in someone else’s mouth (and you know you are doing this), you are resolving old issues, exploring new ways to happiness, or clarifying ideas.
Example: I’m feeling anxious. A friend has asked me to help her in a way that I feel uncomfortable with. I want to help my friend, but I want to hold onto my values.
Q: I’m not sure I can do this, Friend.
F: But it will help John and it will be a big favor to me, too.
You can also draw speech bubbles and fill them in.
Q: I think speaking up at the Writers’ Club and supporting John as another member isn’t a good idea. The club rules say you have to be a published writer, and John isn’t.
F: It’s not about you, Quinn, it’s about getting John into a place where he can find business. And the club is great for that. You’ve gotten business that way. John is a good guy.
Q: I have gotten business from the club. But I was a published writer when I joined. And John isn’t.
F: He writes his own blog, and that’s publishing. You are just afraid he’s a better writer than you.
Q: A blog is not publishing. And I want what’s best for John. But getting him into the club is not in his best interest.
F: What’s wrong with you that you won’t help this friend? Haven’t you needed a hand before?
Q: I’ll be happy to help John in some way that helps John. Being dishonest doesn’t help anyone. Least of all John, if he gets a job he can’t handle.
. . . .the dialog can go on as long as you need it to. In this example, I see my own stubborn character, but also my clarity in not being dishonest. Yes, it’s a small thing, but I can see that if I vouch for John, and he doesn’t do well, the lie I told will be the reason John got in over his head. What I am understanding from this dialog is that my need for approval is pretty big, not not big enough to lie for someone.
Is this the dialog the way it really happened? No, but by making up the other half, I’m giving myself the opportunity to dig into my own emotions in ways that help me see my own motives clearly.
The dialog exercise is a good way to find out more about yourself.
–Quinn McDonald is an explorer in her journal