“When you write about a memory you begin to remember more fragments of your life; when you read it to others you remember even more.” ~ Patty Dann

I facilitated our Writing Alone Together Circle today, which is one of our monthly IAJW member events. I often  pick a theme or a topic for our writing circles and today’s theme was “world in a word.”

This theme came to me through thinking about how journaling is all about language and words. We express ourselves using words and stories.  Words themselves can open a whole world. I often think about this as I write. Last week I was on a camping trip and I was sitting by a river, I started writing about my love of rivers and that led me to writing about memories of a white water rafting trip I took many years ago.

A second inspiration for choosing this theme is a book I am currently reading entitled, The Butterfly Hours – Transforming Memories into Memoir – with prompts for uncovering your life stories by Patty Dann (Shambala, 2016). The book has lessons for writing memoir in it (and these lessons can be used by journal writers too). I love the titles of the lessons as they say so much in just a few words – for example, lesson 1 is Write Out of Love or Anger, lesson 2 is Steal from Yourself, lesson 6 – Time Away from the Computer Is as Important as Time at the Computer, lesson 10 – Be Bold, Be Bolder... and so forth.

In this book, Patty Dann teaches writers to use what she calls the “one word memory trigger.” It is as a simple as it sounds, pick a word, any word and then write the memories that this word sparks in you.

Through doing this, you will see that there is a whole world in a word.

In our writing circle today, these were among the single words that served as our journal writing prompts:

I offered these single word prompts…

Individuals in our group offered…

My writing from the single word prompt: RIVER

Please note, this is unedited journaling that flowed from a 5 minute timed writing using the single word “river” as my journaling prompt…


I remember getting up with you at 4:00 am, in the cold early morning to bundle in warm jackets as we gathered our fishing rods, Thermos of hot chocolate, and your tackle box.  I was 16 years old and you were 19, you were my first love.

I know it was love because there is no way I would have got up at 4:00 am on a Sunday morning, after working late at McDonald’s the night before, to go stand along the edge of a river, with pieces of ice floating by on its surface, to go fishing, when I didn’t even care to fish, even on a hot summer’s day.  This would not have happened if it weren’t for love.

It makes me wonder about all the things I have done in the name of love in my life so far…

go fishing, get married, smoke cigarettes, wear high heels (I prefer running shoes), move across the country, get divorced, hike in grizzly country, swim naked, have babies, wipe away tears, stay up all night until you died in my arms the next morning, buy the plane tickets because it might be the last time I ever see you again, walk away, turn around, listen, hold your hand under the covers, wash your back in the bath tub each morning, give up, give in, eat a raw oyster, pay a big phone bill for a long distance love, drive all night to get home, listen to every word of Van Morrison, pour your morning coffee with the first pull, never listen to the Tragically Hip again, make bacon over an open fire in the woods, go hungry, wait for hunger to pass, it never does

Love is a river flowing through a million moments. It’s a strong current keeping life afloat.

Your turn…

Pick a word from the single word prompts above or pick a word of your own. Set a timer for 5 minutes and write freely, wherever the prompt takes you. Let memories, moments, and stories flow.

Don’t stop to edit or censor yourself. Just trust the impulse from that single word and write.

Please share your writing in the comments below.

We learn from each other’s stories.

Thank you and enjoy.

Author: Lynda Monk is the Director of the International Association for Journal Writing. She is passionate about the healing and transformational power of journaling and story. She lives with her husband, Peter, two teen sons, Jackson and Jesse, and their beloved Golden Retriever, Sadie, who have all taught her so much about the constantly flowing river of love in day-to-day life.