The First 21 Pages of Your Journal

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Since I posted Your First Step to Being a Renaissance (Wo)man, I’ve received emails from some of you about how you’ve started journaling. So what do you do if you feel like you’ve become repetitive in your journal? This post presents 21 prompts to write about in your journal. Why 21? Not because of the “It takes 21 days to form a habit” claim. That’s actually a myth. A study done by Lally et al. [1] shows that habit forming could take around two months. So again, why did I choose the number 21? Simply because I like the number. It’s a Fibonacci number and what’s not to like about Fibonacci numbers?

Day 1. Draw a blueprint of all the houses you’ve lived in, all the schools you’ve been to, all the offices you’ve worked in….It’s interesting to realize how easy it is to forget the places we’ve spent considerable amount of time in. You could add a descriptive section to this prompt.

Day 2. Take a picture of your favorite dish and write about it. What memories are associated with it? Who cooked the best version you ever had?

Day 3. Write about your ideal day. What time do you wake up? What are you doing? How are you feeling?

Day 4. Write a fictional conversation with one of your heroes. Where are you having this conversation? What are you talking about?

Day 5. Write a letter to your thirteen-year-old self. What are your biggest regrets? What are the biggest lessons learnt?

Day 6. Who are the people you admire the most and why do you admire them?

Day 7. Write a blow-by-blow account of the previous day from the moment you woke up to the moment you went to sleep. Compare this with your entry for Day 3 and see how you can improve your life.

Day 8. Write about one of your happiest memories. What were you doing? Where were you? Who were you with? Is there a picture? If yes, add it to your journal.

Day 9. Every day on the news we learn that the world is a scary place. Is there anything that happened recently to give you hope in humanity?

Day 10. Write a thank you letter to someone who has influenced your life greatly. You could mail this letter (or not).

Day 11. Write about an inspiring talk/speech you’ve listened to recently. It could be a  TED talk or a podcast or simply a conversation with a friend. What did they say that made you feel pumped up? How did it resonate with you?

Day 12. Write about a time when you were really worried about something and it turned out to be all right in the end.

Day 13. Write a letter to your future self about something you’re really worried about right now, and send it to your future self via http://futureme.org/. Don’t let your anxiety cripple you and refer back to Day 12’s prompt to calm yourself down.

Day 14. Describe a day you spent totally alone. Why were you alone? What did you do? How did you feel? Would you like to repeat it? [If it’s been a while since you’ve had a complete day to yourself, then describe a time when you spent a long stretch of time (6 hours) on your own].

Day 15. What was the longest time you’ve had to wait in queue for something? Was it worth the wait? How did you spend that time?

Day 16. Describe a book that considerably changed your life. Or describe a book that evoked such a strong emotional response that you experienced a book hangover.

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Day 17. Look back at your life and write about a belief you held for so long that in retrospect makes you feel so stupid and naive.

Day 18. Describe your favorite journaling spot. Do you get natural light or do you use a lamp? Are you sitting at a desk or lounging on the sofa? How is the noise level?

Day 19. If there is one thing you could change about the people around you what would it be and why?

Day 20. Is there something that you want so bad? It could be a thing like a car or a job or a lifestyle? List down ten ideas of ways to get it – without robbing a bank. See if you can take the first step towards implementing your list.

Day 21. Start the page with “What scares me the most…” and write down your biggest fears.

If you are inspired by these prompts, feel free to take a picture of your journal and tag me on twitter @ahechoes #21pages

Also if you want to improve your life and learn more about personal development, but don’t have to read many books, get my new ebook Mine Your Inner Resources which presents ideas from top books in the field so you can take action right away. To learn more, go to; http://ahscribbles.com/get-your-copy-of-mine-your-inner-resources/

Like this article? Share it on facebook, like the FB page here https://www.facebook.com/AH-Scribbles-1699410536954329/

Header Image: pixabay.com

Book Hangover Image: Pixabay image modified via Buffer Pablo

[1] How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world


Just Published, “All Bleeding Stops and Other Short Stories”

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In October 2009, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie got onto a TED stage and spoke about the danger of a single story. She said, “If I had not grown up in Nigeria, and if all I knew about Africa were from popular images,I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner.” 

When she said that I found myself asking; if I were to write about my people on the Kenyan coast of Mombasa, what would I write about?

The immediate answer was society; how society shapes an individual; how important families are; what changes individuals need to make so our society would advance to the better.

Today I’m happy to present my collection of short stories (available in Kindle edition). All of them are works of fiction. They’re meant to be entertaining, emotional, and in some cases thought-provoking. They’re also meant to open your eyes to a culture that many people across the world don’t even know exists; Arabs residing on the Kenyan coast (the people I’ve personally coined Kemenies). This is NOT to encourage tribalism, but to highlight the cultural traits that are specific to this particular section of society. I hope you support this work by purchasing your own copy of the book, notifying me if there are any typos and talking to your friends and family about it.

For the Kindle version; click here http://www.amazon.com/Bleeding-Stops-Other-Stories-Kenyan-ebook/dp/B01EFRMOSO?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0 [The price should say 1.99 USD. If you see any other price, please wait for the page to be updated].

For the PDF version;

Buy Now

Let me know if you’re having problems purchasing this. If you live in Kenya and can’t purchase any of the versions online, email me and we’ll figure out an arrangement via M-Pesa.

A Couple of Words about Writing

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So the other day I spent close to four hours on a story. I only stopped to move to another place with better lighting. And to order food, which I ravenously wolfed down with one hand while the other was on the keyboard. It’s a story I’ve been working on for ages (the first draft was written back in 2006), and the more words I add to it the more I realize I wouldn’t want it published. Unless I want to be sued by the real people who inspired it. It’s supposed to be ‘fiction’ with enough details close to life to make people point fingers and speculate. And in a small town like Mombasa, you seriously don’t want to set the ball of speculation rolling. Trust me.

Writing can be an emotionally draining experience. That’s the main reason why I tend to write in ‘spikes’ and things like nanowrimo never work for me. I might stay away from a work-in-progress for a long time and then spend four hours in a single day writing. Not only can writing be time-consuming, it can also be unsettling. It’s how Natalie Goldberg once said, “Writers end up writing about their obsessions. Things that haunt them; things they can’t forget; stories they carry in their bodies waiting to be released.”

And sometimes writing may result in insomnia. We cannot sleep until we’ve put those those words on paper (or an iphone note). I actually kept an insomnia notebook one summer. Before smartphones came along.

And you know the worse part about writing stories?

It’s when you actually go to sleep and end up dreaming an upsetting scene. It happened to me once, but I still haven’t had the emotional capacity to write down the story around that one scene because it was too sad, thinking about it makes me tear up occasionally, I just imagine the disastrous effect  writing about it would have. 

But you know despite all its downfalls, writing helps us understand people, understand ourselves. It helps us figure things out things about life in general. In one of the scenes I wrote yesterday, my protagonist’s friend tells her, “Sometimes our secrets define us. No matter how much time we spend together you can never really know the true me because the things I choose to hide are as much a part of me as the things I choose to tell. Does that even make sense?” 

Last but not least, it can  be therapeutic.

Explains why I’m here. Good night.


Out of Inspiration? Take a Walk

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You know how when someone walks into a room that already has two people and wants to kick one of them out, they say, “Take a walk. I need to talk to your friend here”?

Sometimes when you’re facing a white page trying to find inspiration, making that extra mug of coffee or wiping the dust off the keyboard won’t lure ideas out. So maybe it’s time to kick yourself out of your hobbit hole and take a walk. And if you are ready to lug things around you could carry your journal, a pen and a camera though your phone could probably play the functions of all of those.

I tried that today and by the time I was done from my walk I had a list of ideas to explore. Of course this list brought on a different type of problem; there were too many ideas, the question was which one to tackle first? And naturally that can be a procrastinator’s cue line to tackle none and go to sleep. But that mostly happens because we want whatever we create to be perfect and that daunting standard we set for ourselves becomes the very thing that stops us from doing anything at all. So another thing to remember is that anything imperfect is better than a perfect nothing.

Before I leave, a couple of days ago, the health and sports officials in the UAE launched ‘Start Walking’ campaign; a public health awareness campaign by the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC). Their message according to Khaleej Times was “A 30-minute brisk walk everyday can help, manage, reverse and even prevent diabetes. So, start walking.”

So now that you’re done reading this, take a walk. If you don’t get inspired, at least you could lose a few calories.