In fourth grade my teacher gave us a writing prompt at the beginning of each day to get our brain juices flowing–or to create a nice, quiet space for herself before the madness began. (Nice one, Mrs. F.)
It was my favorite thing. I remember furiously scribbling down stories about leprechauns, unicorns and warrior princess witches.
Recently, the universe (or Marie Kondo) inspired me to clean out my basement and guess what I found? A fourth grade story notebook.
It filled me with PURE JOY.
And it also got me thinking.
I use writing prompts in my adult life to help clear out my mind when it’s feeling extra messy and anxious. One of my favorites is just two words: “what if.”
What if… I start this?
What if… I stop that?
What if… I get rid of stuff?
What if… I confront that person?
What if… I told the truth?
What if… I fail?
What if… I succeed?
Sometimes the answers form quickly and clearly in my head, but most of the time they work their way out, word by word. Or, more specifically, fear by fear.
It’s difficult to live in the present moment while fear is pulling you back and fourth into reliving the past and worrying about the future. The trick is to notice when this is happening and mindfully take action to get back to a calmer, happier place.
Writing about it–putting cloudy thoughts into words–flips the perspective. Instead of feeling like they are controlling me, I become a witness to my thoughts and emotions. They begin to feel less overwhelming and more manageable. I’ve even written what-if’s down on scraps of paper and then burned them. Byeee, thoughts, I’m releasing you.
What if Mrs. F knew she was sneaking valuable life lessons into young fourth-grade minds? I like to think she knew exactly what she was doing.