For Lynda Monk personal writing has sparked many significant positive life decisions. It helped her choose to leave her first marriage and move to an island when she was 30 years old. It helped her leave her job and start her own thriving business.

It helped her make “other choice points that started as ideas, dreams and musings within the pages of my journal and expanded out to be choices and growth in my life.” Monk, MSW, RSW, is a registered social worker and writing for wellness coach. She’s also co-author of the book Writing Alone Together: Journaling in a Circle of Women for Creativity, Compassion & Connection.

When we write about our thoughts and feelings, we become more self-aware. We take a deeper look and gain a better understanding of our wants and wishes. According to Monk, “Writing is a way to express our authentic voice, dreams and desires.” It “allows life to be explored, observed and shifted in creative and authentic ways.”

And once we identify our true longings, we can take action. In other words, writing is our compass. Because, without it, without delving into our minds and hearts, we don’t know where to go.

Where do you start?

You can begin with writing prompts—like Monk’s suggestions below:

  • Right now, what I really want is to _______.
  • My deepest desire is to _______.
  • If I could change anything in my life, I would ______. Write about what would be different in your life after making this change—in as much detail as possible: Write about the future as if it were the present.

What’s also helpful is asking ourselves questions. (And I love a good question.) “Powerful questions are at the heart of growth and transformation,” Monk said. “[A]nd they are one of the cornerstones to personal growth through writing.”

Some of Monk’s favorite questions include:

  • If you imagine that you have enough, are enough, what might you do differently? How would this impact you and others?
  • If you imagine looking back at your life, as if looking in a rearview mirror, what experiences stand out as peak experiences?
  • What needs to change? What is at stake if you do not make those changes?
  • What do you feel really proud of? What do you want to celebrate and acknowledge about yourself?

Monk also suggested creating your own list of questions about things that you’re curious about in your life. “You can print these off and put them in a bag to make your own grab bag of journaling prompts.”

When we sit down and put pen to paper, we give ourselves the opportunity to be heard, to take the first step in taking action to support ourselves. And it really doesn’t take much. As Monk said, “even a 5-minute journal entry can lead to new insights and growth, if we let it.”

Photo by Álvaro Serrano.