31 journal prompts for your social isolation journal

Are you keeping a journal right now? If so, historians of the future will most likely thank you, because I can tell you now, people are going to look back on this time and want to know what life was really like. Why were so many people watching Tiger King? Who was really hoarding all of the toilet paper, and what were they doing with it? How did people's jobs change? These are the questions (among many) that might plague researchers and writers in the future. Your journal is not just a record for you-- it's an historical artefact.

But if, like me, some days you open your journal and your mind goes blank, then don't worry. I've compiled a list of prompts for you to write your responses to-- one for every day in May. 


1. What items haven't you been able to get at the supermarket (other than Toilet Paper)?

2. Been for a walk lately? Tell us about the people you saw on your most recent trip outside.

3. If you've been having vivid dreams, write about the weirdest one so far. If you don't dream, write a story in which a character in social isolation has a nightmare.

4. Tell your journal about something that you've made-- a cake, a scarf, a new friend perhaps. Have you uncovered any secret skills or found a new hobby?

5. Do you have any pets? How have the animals in your life reacted to having you home more often? If you don't have a pet, write about what kind of animal you think would best suit your lifestyle. For an extra challenge, write a story from their point of view about 'When all the humans stayed home.'

6. Write a story about two people who meet online and cannot meet up in real life until the restrictions are lifted. Who are they? What is their relationship? How does it develop under these new circumstances?

7. Write a letter to your favourite teacher. Maybe they are your teacher right now, and helping you. Maybe they helped you when you were younger. Write them a letter and tell them about how they have helped you. They don't have to be your school teacher.

8. Write a poem (in any form) about washing your hands. If you're feeling musical, make it a song.

9. Write a letter to someone who has really been getting on your nerves lately. Don't share it with them though! It can be a family member, or maybe someone you see online a lot whose social media posts are extremely irritating. Try to be as constructive as possible about why they annoy you.

10. Write a script for a videoconference call between a circus ringmaster and his circus employees who are working from home. (Or a swimming coach and a swim team. Or a conductor and an orchestra.)

11. Write a list of things that you find comforting. See how many things you can find.

12. A lot of people have been baking while in isolation. Write a piece of flash fiction or a short story in the form of a recipe, or a story in which a recipe figures prominently.

13. A day in the life-- write out everything you did today, yesterday or the day before. It can be as dot points if you want. Describe your day as if you are David Attenborough watching animals in the rainforest. Now try it again as if you are writing a 19th Century novel.

14. Imagine you are a documentary film maker, writing a script for the voiceover of your film. Your film can be on anything you find interesting about life right now. Maybe it's how the coronavirus pandemic has affected a particular industry, like the film industry, or maybe it's about a hobby of yours, or about your family's life... anything you like, that you find interesting. You may like to do some extra research for this one, but as it's your journal, you are also allowed to make up the details you don't know.

15. Write an episode of your favourite TV show that takes place during this time. Are they all working from home, or do the characters work in essential roles?

16. Story prompt: write a story about a couple who were about to break up before social isolation happened and now have to stay inside together. If you don't want to write about a couple, you could choose any two people between whom there is tension-- room mates who don't get a long, a parent and adult child who wants to move out.

17. Describe somewhere that makes you happy.

18. Do you have a particular philosophy that applies to being in isolation? Have you always held this philosophy, or has having extra downtime/ quiet time helped you develop a new outlook?

19. When all the restrictions are finally lifted, what is the first thing you'll do? What about if you won the lottery-- would that change your plans?

20. What has been the most upsetting thing that has happened to you during isolation? (This one might be hard to write down, but it's important to record everything we can. Positivity is great but doesn't make for good history if it means you make an inaccurate portrait of life. Skip this one and come back to it if you find it too hard to write about.)

21. Write a short essay about how your work life has changed, or how isolation has affected any projects you've been working on. Do you get more done? Less? Are you prevented from doing parts of your work or project? Have you perhaps been forced to do other work, or been unable to work at all?

22. How would you explain the world today to a small child? Or to an extra-terrestrial? Or to a person who has just woken up from a coma? (Perhaps you might like to write a story from one of these points of view.)

23. What good or bad habits have you picked up since isolation began?

24. Make a list of all of the things you would buy online to keep you occupied if you had unlimited money, and the places you would buy them from. (And if you have bought anything online lately, how long did it take to come in the mail?)

25. What things do you think will be different about the post-pandemic world? Explore this in a short story set 5 years from now.

26. Who or what do you miss the most, and why?

27. Find an outside place to sit-- it could be on your balcony, in a park, or even just next to an open window. Describe what's outside using just what you smell and hear.

28. Design a product, app, service etc. that doesn't exist (that you know of) which would be really useful to you in your life right now.

29. Have you been decluttering your home or wardrobe while you've been isolated? If you have been, what is something that you learned about yourself during the process -- i.e. do you buy a lot of fancy dresses but then never feel comfortable wearing them? Do you think your habits will change?

30. Write a poem about someone who has inspired you recently-- you don't have to know them, they could be a stranger you've seen an article about online.

31. Are things back to normal yet? Describe your life in terms of what is and isn't back to normal.

** BONUS ACTIVITY ** Keep a list of quotes from books, movies and tv shows you've been engaging with that relate to your life right now, or strike you as particularly poignant.

And there we have it, your 31 isolation diary prompts for May. They might not all work for you, and if not, that's fine. Each one is just designed to get you started if you sit down to write in your journal and feel stuck. (They're also designed to be ok for kids to have a go at.) One other thing I hope to achieve with this list is to encourage you (and myself!) to sit down and write every day in the month of May. I have been bad at keeping up with my writing lately (and if you've seen my last blog you might know why) and so I thought I'd design this project to help get myself writing again at least in some form.

If you have any other prompt ideas, I would love to see them in the comments!

Happy writing.