Writing Book Review: A Year in the Life by Sheila Bender

A Year in the Life: Journaling for Self-DiscoveryA Year in the Life: Journaling for Self-Discovery by Sheila Bender
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I just finished working through a year of weekly journaling prompts from this book. When I bought it at a used booksale, I remember thinking that the prompts didn’t seem all that provocative, and after doing every single one, it turns out that I was mostly right. The prompts did get me to write and think about some things that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise, and my favorite ones were those that got me to delve into my memories. I liked less the ones that asked for strange or obscure metaphors, like, “Imagine a body part is made of a non-living substance and write about it” or “describe a self-portrait of a feeling.” I also didn’t get a real feeling of “completion” when I finished, since the exercises did not build upon one another in any way; they could have been arranged in any order and the experience would have been exactly the same.

Each week has a main prompt, and then six “extensions” in case you want to write every day rather than just once a week. I could never motivate myself to do the extensions, even though a lot of them were pretty interesting. Others were pretty much just lazy rephrasings of the initial prompt, or takes on it that were only slightly different. Also, it annoyed me that often the title of the prompts had very little to do with the actual prompt — I noticed this especially when I started posting some of my exercises to my writing blog.

Still, the additional journaling resources at the end, the suggestions for writing on holidays and other special occasions, and the “mini-anthology” of writing based on the prompts at the end were all nice touches. And I think I will be able to pull some valuable exercises for use in my spiritual writing group or other writing classes. To see some of my writing from the book, click here.

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