Words To Live By 22 Prompts

WEEK ONE: Peace and Gratitude

Discover your safe space 

Think of a real or imaginary space where you feel safe and at peace. Create that place in your mind, imagining it thoroughly, one sense at a time. Now write a detailed description of it using all of your senses. In the future, you might like to return to this place in your mind, closing your eyes, breathing and taking on the calmness. This could be a good place to go mentally, before you write in the future.  

Freewriting on gratitude  

Freewrite for just 2 minutes on the subject of gratitude. Remember that freewriting is all about writing with energy, without paying attention to things like spelling, grammar and sentence formation. Keep your hand and your mind moving, write down everything that comes up (it might be a list of words, or sketched ideas rather than fully formed sentences).

Short poem of gratitude

Read through your freewriting and choose one line to build a poem from.

WEEK TWO: Myself

Poem of the week: A Portable Paradise – Roger Robinson  

Write about your own Portable Paradise. This could be a treasured physical object that you always carry with you, or even a memory or a piece of wisdom or information you draw comfort from. (Alternatively, take a word, line or feeling from the poem and use that as a starting point for your own work).  

Writing about yourself in the third person – write about yourself in the third person, as if you were a character in a novel. What do you want people to know about this person? What makes them special and unique? What do you like about them? What are their gifts and qualities? What sort of setting would you place them in to show the type of person they are? 

Writing a letter of compassion to yourself – Write a letter of kindness to yourself, as if you were a friend or loved one. What do you need to hear right now. What advice can you give yourself today.  

WEEK THREE: Journeys

Writing about a journey. Think of a significant journey you’ve taken. This could be a once in a lifetime trip or a daily commute; it could be the other side of the world or your own neighbourhood; the journey could have been enjoyable and pleasant or difficult. Try to use as much sensory language as you can to really transport your reader. Think of engaging all the senses and adding details that are unique to that place. 

Poem of the week: The Journey – Mary Oliver  

Write a reply to Mary Oliver’s The Journey. It could be a poem (maybe even in a similar style to Mary’s) or even a letter or piece of prose. How does the poem make you feel and what do you want to say in response?  (You could even write something that starts with… One day I finally knew what I had to do…)

WEEK FOUR: People and Places

February Evening in New York by Denise Levertov | Poetry Foundation 

Writing on My Happy Place Think of somewhere that always makes you feel joyful. We’re going to freewrite for 2 minutes on each of the senses… So first, write a list of things you can see there, using as much detail as possible. Is there anything surprising? What can you feel? Is it warm or cool? How does it feel underfoot? What can you feel in your body? Now, think about any smells? Write a list of words that evoke the scents of the place. Now, let’s think about the sounds? Reach beyond the obvious noises and make a list of the subtle things that you only hear if you really listen. What about taste? Breathe in deeply through your mouth. How does the air taste? Can you describe that? Now, take a few moments to write something that really describes this place, using all of this detail. Try to use as much sensory language as you can to transport your reader (using details about everything you can see, smell, taste, feel etc). Keep this place with you and visit whenever you need to throughout the week ahead.  

Write a poem about someone that makes you feel good. Try to really capture their character in your writing. For instance, if they are slow and steady, you might want to use lots of space and regular line breaks. If they are fast, you might opt for shorter sentences or sentences that run together. Think about how you can use punctuation and space to change the pace of a poem (to reflect your subject matter).

(WAP) WEEK FIVE: Emotions and Relations

  • Think of a feeling you’ve had recently (delight, amusement, affection, shock, physical pain). Write a letter to it, as if it were an old friend/foe, make sure to include some questions. Write answers (in the voice of the feeling!) 
  • Think of a relationship word (eg. aunt, mother, father, godparent, best friend, neighbour) – write it down, think of a place in a house (study, garden shed, kitchen, bedroom, cellar, garden, balcony) – write it down. Now join the words together, eg. My aunt’s study, my mother’s garden shed, my best friend’s bedroom, my neighbour’s garden etc) and write a piece from there. (It might be based on a real memory, or it may be complete fiction).  

WEEK SIX: Transformation

  • Breathe in (for 3), breathe out (for 6 – or as long as is comfortable, as long as the exhale is double the inhale. Try 2 and 4 if that is easier).
    Starting with an exhale write down something that you want to let go off, then as you inhale write something that you want more of in your life.  

Eg. Breathe out shorter nights, breathe in cosy evenings 

Create a list of breathe out, and breathe ins.

Shared poem: Today – Mary Oliver  

  • Now read the poem in your head and write whatever comes out afterwards. Write what you need to write in this moment.
  • Write something on the theme of transformation.  

WEEK SEVEN: Memories

  • Now I want you to write down the first thing that comes into your head after each of these, think of something from your own life. Don’t overthink it, just take a few seconds to make a note of the memory that pops into your head with each one.  

A place you’ve been 

Somewhere you worked 

A gift you received  

The first time you saw one of your favourite TV shows, films or plays  

A game you played as a child 

Something you used to wear 

Something that makes you happy 

A time you got into trouble 

A song 

An early memory of writing 

A memory of snow 

A time you were proud of yourself 

A gift you gave 

A memory involving an animal 

A memory around school playtime 

A celebration 

A place you’ve lived 

A time you realised something important  

An attempt at growing something 

A time you had your heart broken 

A time when you learnt a new skill 

A time you felt completely yourself 

Shared poem – How I Knew Harold – Deborah Harding How I Knew Harold (ronnowpoetry.com) 

Now select 11 of your memories that stand out to you and write the approximate year that they happened.  

Now, using Deborah’s poem for inspiration, you’re going to write your own piece. Note how Deborah’s poem is all in the present tense, how the memories are not told chronologically but in a seemingly random order, how she starts each line with ‘Around…(year)’. Use your 11 memories and keep them in the order they came up in the exercise, start each new memory with ‘Around… (year)…’ You might choose to focus on positive memories, or handle more difficult times. Only go as deep as you are comfortable to.  

  • Think of an animal (or bird) or plant that you share characteristics with. Make a list of all the strengths you share with this animal/bird/fish/tree/flower. Now write a poem that explores this idea. Rather than writing that you are like a fox (eg), write from the perspective of the fox. Eg. I am a fox… or I am fox.  

WEEK EIGHT: Reflection and journalling – New Year!

These words describe 2022… 

These are the achievements from 2022 that I am most proud of… 

This year I learnt… 

This year I learnt… about myself. 

2022 was the year that I finally… 

A few things that were worth celebrating this year were… 

Next year, I’m going to let go of… 

Some beautiful, stand out 2022 moments are… 

These are the things/people that made a difference to my life and sense of happiness this year… 

Some goals I’d like to achieve next year are… 

Some things I’d like to open my heart to next year are… 

Some things I’d like to try next year are… 

These are the qualities I’d like to take from 2022 to 2023… 

This is what I’d like to be different in my life this time next year… 

These words describe how I visualise 2023 to be… 

Things I’d like to do for my own self care next year…


  • 6 minutes’ free writing. Put the pen on the page and write with no forethought or planning and certainly no awareness of grammar or form. A list might come out, or seemingly jumbled odds and ends; our minds often jump about before we find a path through. Whatever it is will be right. It need never be shared, and need never be reread; it’s completely private. Remember that no one is looking, so you can be as expressive and honest as you feel comfortable being. (Shield your paper from your inner critic too!) 

Portal: a doorway, gate, or other entrance, especially a large or important one. 

  • Imagine you are standing before a closed doorway, gate or entrance. What does it look like? How does it feel? Write something that describes this portal, and without deciding in advance, let your writing unlock the door and show you what is on the other side. Write something descriptive about the place that you end up in.  
  • Two poems about doors: 

Margaret Atwood – Hesitations Outside the Door 

John McCullough – I’ve Carried a Door On My Back For Ten Years (a poem for Andy Lee) 

Margaret talks about how the “right lies” would “open the door” – write something about what would open your “door.”  

John’s poem deals with grief. Think of a metaphorical object to represent something that is always with you (it could be something small that no one would notice, or something huge and inconvenient like John’s door. It could be an animal or a mariachi band following you around. It might be something joyful or something harder to bear, it’s your choice – as ever, only go as deep as you feel comfortable).  


Martha Postlewaite – Clearing

  • Freewrite for 2 minutes on ‘the song of your life’ – then read back over your writing and seek out the ‘treasure’ (draw out the lines that speak to you and use them as a jumping off point for a poem).
  • Think of a story (or poem or song) that you loved as a child and retell it, reflecting your own story. (For instance you might rewrite a fairytale, think of the language that makes it recognisable as a fairytale (eg. the characters, the setting/landscape, written in the 3rd person).