Your Very Own Diarists’ Hike That You Can Have Wherever You Are

Hello my journaling queermos. This year at A-Camp, Hansen and I are hosting a Diarists’ Hike — a hike where we, uh, hike to the scenic overlook where we feast our eyes upon the majestic Big Bear mountains, write in our journals and pray we don’t become prey for any majestic big bears.

We at Autostraddle are, in general, pretty big fans of the journal. We had a whole Dear Queer Diary column about keeping a journal; we run an A+ segment wherein we share excerpts from our own diaries. I’m still working up the courage to pitch to that segment, by the way, because I’m convinced that I don’t sound nice in my journals, that maybe the deepest-truest part of my soul is a rotten apple. But I digress. Journaling.

I’m utterly convinced that keeping a journal of some kind is the most valuable thing you can do if you are a creative person or work in a creative field (artist, writer, musician, etc.). I’m fairly convinced that keeping a journal of some kind is the most valuable thing you can do if you are any sort of human at all (because everyone needs to converse with themselves somehow, sanity, etc.). That’s just my opinion, of course. I highly recommend it.

But what does one do when they light a candle, sit down with their journal and stare at the blank page and… nothing? It happens. I find this means I am placing some sort of expectation on myself for how my journal should look/sound/behave/operate. There is no one right way to journal — and if it helps, likely no one will ever ask to read it unless you work at Autostraddle. If it doesn’t help, one time instead of writing something deep, I made my grocery list and went grocery shopping. At least it was a productive session in one way or another.

Mostly what I do, though, is I go for a walk. And that, my unicorn-fairy-lovelies, is why the Hike.

photo by robin roemer

Me, Vanessa, Jill, Cara, Megan, Somer all hiking at May-Campt 2013. Photo by Robin Roemer

Because when you can’t think of what in your life to write about, you should go outside and put yourself in life. And write about that. Now I know not all of us can walk a mountain range. But I have a feeling many of us can go outside and simply describe. Not just what you see, either — how do things smell? Feel? Hear? Don’t taste anything if you’re out in the wilderness because that’s inadvisable. Your neighbor walks by — how do you know them? Do you know them at all? What do you imagine they do with their day, if you were the Sims-controller if their life? When was the last time they spoke to you. You pass a restaurant on a busy city street that you never noticed before — what was in its place last you checked?

See? It doesn’t matter where you are. Starting with the world around you is like falling down the clickhole when you’re googling elaborate Cate Blanchett fan fiction — the first step will lead you somewhere, and you may surprise yourself with what you notice. What’s important to you. How you see the world and move through it.

Or you can come up all zeros again. That’s where this handy post comes in. See, if people’s brains begin to drool nothing all over their journal on the hike, we have a dandy hat they can draw a prompt from. We’re giving you 13 of those prompts right here, right now. Some of the most surprising things I’ve written have come out of prompts I didn’t feel strongly about. Sometimes having a strong preference for something is just resistance to territory your brain actually ought to be at that moment.

Sally forth, good queers, and journal!


  1. This is a prompt about endings. Something in your life is coming to an end, and something else is beginning — write about the transition space you’re exploring right now. What do you need to move forward? What do you need to let go? If you aren’t closing one epoch in favor of another at the moment, there must be something you’ve been carrying that you wish with all your heart and soul that you could put down. What is it?
  2. Write about the first time you’ve felt part of a community — or write about your perfect community. Or both.
  3. Do you ever feel like you want to run away and start a new life under a new name and do something completely different? Write about that imaginary adventure.
  4. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. You smell something from your childhood. What is it? Where does that smell lead you? Paint a word picture of the whole scene, the whole memory.
  5. Do you remember your first lie? What was it? What is your relationship to stretching the truth? When was the last time you told a fib?
  6. What is your real life superpower? Do you use it for good, or for evil? What can you do in your life to cultivate the superpowers you want — or to cultivate a responsible, efficient use of the superpowers you already have.
  7. Write about a time where you got away with something that you shouldn’t have.
  8. In your life to this point, what moment has sucked the worst? Paint a picture of that moment — how far from it are you? What kind of reflection has that distance brought?
  9. Listen to me. Do not organize your mind right now. Shake it up, jumble it until it’s just a bunch of connections firing into space — just a bunch of snowflakes behind the glass of a snow globe. Now. Write. Don’t think. Just put words down and let the connections form where they may.
  10. Write about fighting. Everyone fights — do you fight the system? The patriarchy? Your family? Yourself? What are you fighting right now? What do you hope for regarding the outcome?
  11. Make a list of the things you’re committed to doing right now — do you think you’ve got too many things? Too few? Or is it about quality — are these the sorts of things you want to be responsible for or carry with you? Make a new list — fantasy commitment list. What do you wish you could be spending your time on?
  12. Complete a whole journal entry without using words.
  13. You are looking at a map of the world — on it, there are pins that represent places where you left pieces of your heart. Write the pins. What piece of your heart did you leave? Why did it break off and decide to stay?

Staff Writer for Autostraddle, Part-time Faculty at The New School (teaching digital storytelling), Managing Editor for Scholar & Feminist Online at Barnard Center for Research On Women. Follow me on Twitter @AEOsworth or on Instagram, also @AEOsworth.

A.E. has written 544 articles for us.

11 Comments

  1. I totally think about faking my own death and then moving to some other country and starting over again; but, then I think about how sad my family would be and where would someone get a all new fake identity and that usually concludes the though.

  2. Speaking of bears, yesterday there was a momma bear with two (we think) cubs in my friends’ yard, and up the tree right next to their house. In other words, I got to see a teeny black bear cub from like 30 feet away as it was climbing down the tree from my friends’ porch. It was utterly adorable.

    In related news, it’s very lucky that this was a very young mother bear decided to climb the tree instead of be aggressive because we were like 30 feet from her with her cubs and we had no idea they were out there until we were both out of our cars because it was nighttime and black bears blend in pretty dang well with the night, being all black. So thanks for not mauling us, momma bear. I already had to be stitched up this week without being mauled by a bear.

  3. I’ve really thought about just running about to another costal place, maybe one with a lighthouse and get gender confirmation surgery. Kind of like that movie Clear History with Larry David where he moves to Cape Cod to start a new life. I’d probably run away to costal Oregon(legal cannabis, trans friendly laws, and Carrie Brownstein, who can say no). I love my family and California too much.

  4. The hike at camp was amazing! Camp had given me plenty to journal about, but I will definitely be using these later.

    Also, “Sometimes having a strong preference for something is just resistance to territory your brain actually ought to be at that moment.” is pure genius and terribly relevant to my journal process regularly.

  5. This was perfect! I am always looking for journal prompts to keep in my journal when I come up blank. The first one was especially apt today because tomorrow is my birthday, so I’ve been thinking lots and lots about endings and beginnings

  6. I went on this hike last year at camp, and I’m currently planning a woodsy self-care retreat. I’ve been really missing camp (fingers crossed to get off the waitlist!) and I’m taking these prompts with me to the woods next week. <3

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