Writing strategies


Contrasting Writing Strategy (March 2021)

Contrasting Strategy

Contrasting is a writing strategy that gives us an opportunity to see the world through different lenses. You can contrast different kinds of people. You can contrast the difference between two events. You can contrast best and worst scenarios.

For practice, just write about one of the most lighthearted situations you have ever experienced. Be sure to share the who, what, why, where, and when of the situation. Tell the reader any detail you can remember including colors, smells, textures, and sounds.

Then just write about one of the most disheartening situations you have ever experienced. Be sure to share the who, what, why, where, and when of the situation. Tell the reader any detail you can remember including colors, smells, textures, and sounds.

Then reflect on how you felt in each of the situations and how you felt even as you wrote them. What did you notice about lightheartedness contrasted with heavy heartedness?

Journaling about yourself, in the third person (February 2021)

There are three points of view in writing. First person is very personal and uses pronouns such as “I” and “me”. Second person writing uses “you” and “yours”. Writing in the third person is writing from a third-person perspective, as an outsider looking in and uses pronouns like “he”, “she”, or “they” while referring to themselves. By writing in the third person, the writer stands back, or outside of the situation with the intention of seeing the situation more objectively.          

Think about a caregiving relationship that you are in or may be in at some point. You may be surprised to realize you are already in a caregiving relationship whether it be with children, family, neighbors, or colleagues. Before writing, take a moment to review the questions below and reflect on your caregiving situation.

  • What is your relationship to the person you are caring for?
  • What condition are they suffering from?
  • What is being expected of you?
  • What is the expected duration of the caregiving?
  • What are the other demands in your life?
  • What experience do you have with caregiving?
  • What are the expectations you have of yourself in the situation?
  • What expectations does our culture impose on you?
  • What resources are available to you?
  • What support do you have for yourself?
  • How are unexpected events, like Covid-19, influencing your caregiving?
  • What is a reasonable objective for your short term and long term caregiving?

Once you have considered the questions, please describe your caregiving relationship in the third person. Use “he or she” even though you are writing about your own life.

After writing your journal in the third person, then write what you are noticing about the total writing experience and what you are noticing about the content of the written piece.

Here is an example of the beginning of written journal: (Remember, Grant is writing about his own situation):

Grant is a 57 year old executive who has retired early in order to be the primary caregiver for Margaret, his wife of 34 years. They have had a rewarding marriage and share three children and 4 grandchildren, who unfortunately do not live close by. Margaret was for the most part of a stay at home mom. Grace, Margaret’s sister, works full time at her job but helps take care of Margaret in her spare time.

Grant is finding the challenges of the food preparation daunting due to Margaret’s special dietary considerations during chemotherapy. His project management skills are put to good use coordinating appointments, medications, home care, and therapies involved in what they hope will lead to recovery. He and Grace, however, recognize that Margaret’s condition is likely progressive.

Grant would continue to write in the “third” person as the entry continued. He might go on to write about feelings, challenges, or special moments. He writes as if he is describing himself as a third person.


Essay Writing Strategy (January, 2021)

Please read several of the essays on the “This I believe” website, then write your own essay espousing what you believe about some aspect of life. The site has generously provided guidelines which are as follows:

Tell a story about you. Explain the circumstances that shaped your core values.  Be specific. Describe moments when a belief was formed or tested or changed. Think of your own experience, work and family. Your story need be neither heartwarming nor gut-wrenching. It can even be funny but it should be real. Tie the story to the essence of your philosophy of life.

Be brief: Your statement should be between 500-600 words.

Be positive: Write about what you believe, not what you don’t believe. Avoid statements of religious dogma, preaching, or editorializing.

Be personal: Make your essay about you; speak in the first person. Avoid using “we”. Tell a story about your own life. This is not an opinion piece about social ideals. Write in words and phrases that are comfortable for you to speak. The recommendation is that you read your essay aloud to yourself several times, editing it until you have the words and tone that truly echo your beliefs and the way you speak.

Dialogue Writing Strategy (December 2020)

Dialogue Writing Strategy (December 2020)

This month’s strategy is credited to Ira Progoff who developed the intensive journal process.

The dialogue strategy involves having a conversation with some aspect of our life. For the purposes of this newsletter, a dialogue with your body is the assignment. Ask your body a sincere question. Record the question.

The strategy guidelines involve three steps:

  • Using only phrases or short sentences, list a 8-10 individual events or periods of time that capture a brief history of your body. Refer to individual events or periods of time that suggest how your body has arrived at how it is now.
  • Summarize your reflections, capturing your present relationship with your body.
  • To begin the dialogue, sit in silence, perhaps with eyes closed. Begin to feel your body as if it has a separate identity, as if it is a person in and of itself. Say “Hello” to Body and listen for its response. Continue the dialogue, simply listening to each other (recording both participants – you and your body). When the dialogue seems to have gone as far as it wishes, let it rest.

Sit quietly. Reread the dialogue. Reflect on and record your reaction to what you and your body were discussing.

Be willing to resume the dialogue if it seems that the conversation will continue.


List Writing Strategy  (November 2020)

List Writing Strategy  (November 2020)

Lists may seem so ordinary, so mundane. Yet, writing lists can be enormously helpful in giving our lives direction, identifying targets of gratitude and recovering memories.


This month’s theme is “joy”. This month’s writing strategy is “writing lists”. As you experiment with one of more of the lists below, notice the interaction between the two. As you write lists about joy, past, present or future, notice how you body responds? Notice how you feel if take a moment with each item on the list. “Enjoy” your reflections on joy.


Answer any or all of the questions using lists:


What five moments of joy come to mind quickly?

What would bring you joy to write about?

What do you imagine would bring you joy that you have not yet experienced?

What photographs or images do you think capture joy?

To whom might you bring joy to today, how might you do it?

What task would bring you joy today if you re-framed it as a privilege, shifting from “I have to” to “I get to”?

If you were in charge of developing a “joy menu” for people in quarantine because of COVID, what would be on the menu for them to order?


If you really enjoy “lists” you might want to experiment with a journal that specifically uses “lists”. This is a link to 52 Lists for Happiness: A Weekly Journaling Inspiration for Positivity, Balance, and Joy by Moorea Seal.

Story Writing Strategy  (October 2020)

Story Writing Strategy  (October 2020)

Think of a setting in which there is tension, adversity, or uncertainty. It can be in the past, the present, or even the future. For a few minutes write about the context. Take the potential reader to the situation. Where are you? Who else is there? What are you seeing? Pay attention to details of your senses. Notice color, shape, time of day? What if any, smells, are there? What sounds can you hear? What is happening that is a concern? What happens that changes what is expected? What twist occurs? What is it that is funnier, easier, or possible that wasn’t evident initially.

Your stories may or may not be private. If you want to share them, send them along to Prairie Wind or share them with a friend or member of your family. Invite others to share a story.

Pyramid Writing Strategy (August 2020)

Pyramid Writing Strategy (August 2020)


Are you not quite sure what to write about or how to get started ?

Try this personal pyramid strategy.


• Identify a general topic, something you would like to further understand. It can be specific or vague.


• Draw a triangle with one block on the top level. In this block place your answer to the question:

           How do I want to feel when I go to sleep tonight ?


• In the two blocks on the 2nd level, place your answers to the question:

          What are the two greatest obstacles that I am facing ?


• In the three blocks on the 3rd level, place your answers to the question:

         What sources of support are available to me ?


• In the four blocks on the 4th level, place your answers to the question:

         What strengths do I have for dealing with stressful times ?



When you have finished, you will have ten options for what to write about.

You can then write about any or all of them.

Be open to where your writing may take you. Your writing may or may not relate to the original topic.



Example topic: How does the person in this example deal with their frustration about COVID restrictions ?

LEVEL 1—How does the person in this example want to feel when they go to sleep tonight ?

LEVEL 2—What are the two greatest obstacles that the person in this example is facing ?

LEVEL 3—What sources of support are available to the person in this example ?

LEVEL 4—What strengths does the person in this example have for dealing with stressful times ?

Adapted from Robert McDowell’s personal pyramid, found in – Poetry as Spiritual Practice



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