Let The Proust Questionnaire Inspire Your Journaling!

By Peter Allan

The power of questions has always startled and surprised me. Curiosity is a human trait that I admire so much, and in this life I have learned how enriching it is to ask questions of others. My father turned 90 on June 14th and I truly believe that his practice of lifelong curiosity has propelled him into old age and keeps him going.

More than 100 years ago the great French writer Marcel Proust engaged in a parlour confessional game that was popular at the time. Like the high school yearbook albums that are being passed around this week for fellow students to sign, this was a journal circulated among friends. It had a different pre-printed question on each page which was answered by all. In his early teens the young Proust responded deeply and precociously in this confessional entitled “An Album to Record Thoughts, Feelings. Etc.“

This series of questions has become an iconic set of interview questions for writers and other celebrities. The very fact that one has been asked to answer the questions implies a certain status. Our own Sheila Rogers asks Canadian writers these questions on her show The Next Chapter. For a number of years the questionnaire forms the back page of Vanity Fair magazine where luminaries are asked the same set of questions.

Here then are some of the questions: (these can make great journaling prompts)

  • What is your idea of perfect happiness?
  • What is your greatest fear?
  • Which living person do you most admire?
  • What is the trait you most deplore in others?
  • What is your greatest extravagance?
  • What is your favourite journey?
  • Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
  • What or who is the greatest love of your life?

One can see that this is rich material to lead us to the page. Like the reflective practice of journal writing, these questions lead us into a greater knowledge of ourselves and others. They are not unlike the questions our therapist might ask us if we had one.  I hope these questions will offer you inspiration for your own journaling!

I will leave you with the wonderful Carol Burnett’s answer to the following question,

What is your motto?

Answer: to be untouched by success and untroubled by failure.

Author Bio:  Peter Allan is an artist, father, writer and husband to Lynda Monk, Director, IAJW.org.  He is a behind the scenes member of the IAJW team offering support, Museletter articles, brainstorming and love. For your interest, you can see some of Peter’s art at http://noblesculpturestudio.com