I have to admit that Week by Week: A Year's Worth of Journaling Prompts and Meditations was a surprise to me. I expected the book to be laid out like a calender, with each prompt being specific to a certain day. Amber Lea Starfire, however, stepped outside the boundaries of the conventional daily prompt idea and made the book, in my opinion, much more intuitive to use and beneficial overall.
In her introduction, Starfire writes about journaling itself—what you need in order to do it (very little) and some reasons why you should start doing it (many). I found myself re-energized about my journaling, even going so far as to purchase some colored pencils the next time I was at the store. According to her, "The only 'rule,' if there is such a thing, is that in order to reap the most benefit from journaling, it must be done regularly—daily or several times a week, rarely less than once a week. Journaling is a habitual, open-ended, and rewarding activity that can be as personal and private, or as impersonal and public, as you want it to be."
The book is not arranged by dates; rather, it is divided into eight general categories such as "Self-Awareness," "Family and Relationships," "The World," and "Obstacles and Opportunities." Within each of these categories Starfire has several related topics, each with seven writing prompts. This style of organization makes it possible for you to simply page through the book and choose a topic to write about that hits a chord with you on that specific day. I also liked this approach because it didn't tie one down to any specific holidays. So, if a person doesn't celebrate Christmas, for example, she doesn't have to deal with a prompt on December 25 related to that specific holiday. Indeed, Starfire's prompts under the "Seasons and Holidays" are very adaptable to special days celebrated by any individual or belief system.
The prompts in Week by Week are incredibly thought provoking. More than once I found myself thinking what a great prompt it would be for my writing group, or wanting to grab my pen and journal and get writing myself. They invite the writer to examine each topic deeply, and Starfire's introductions to each subject often point out the benefits that can be attained by taking the time to thoughtfully respond to them. I thought she did this in a very balanced and realistic manner. She doesn't claim that it will turn your life around in a day, instead showing how it might effect a person at a very basic level and build towards something bigger. She includes extracurricular activities to boost some of the prompts as well. For example, when writing about joy, the journal writer is urged to go out and actually bring joy to other people. This really impressed me. We think of journaling as a tool for self-awareness and personal transformation; Starfire shows us how we can affect the people and even the world around us at the same time.
I wholeheartedly recommend Week by Week to those who are just beginning to journal and those who have been doing it for some time, as well as to writing circle facilitators. Starfire's prompts are original and refreshing, urging us to look at ourselves and our lives from different viewpoints, expanding our boundaries and stepping outside of our comfort zones. The only problem I have with the book is its title, which claims to provide "A Year's Worth of Journaling Prompts and Meditations." In reality, the prompts, ideas and advice in this wonderful book will provide food for thought—and for journaling—for years to come!
Read an excerpt from this book.
Amber Lea Starfire is a teacher, freelance editor, and writer in Napa, California. She earned her Masters in Education at Stanford University and has taught online as well as at community colleges and businesses for twenty years. She currently offers courses and workshops in journaling and creative writing. Visit her website.
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