Your writer’s notebook gives you a safe place to ask: What really matters? What haunts me? What in my life, in this world, do I never want to forget? Your notebook is an open invitation to care again about the world, and to bring those concerns into the full light of consciousness.
Ready to take the plunge and start keeping a writer’s notebook or journal of your own? Here are some tips from the pros for getting into the rhythm and routine of notebooks or journals:
- Choose a journal that feels like a good fit for you. There is a range of sizes and kinds of binding available, pages that are lined or unlined, and notebooks with both lines and blank spaces or pages to accommodate a mixture of drawing and writing.
- Set the tone for your journal by creating a personalized first page, with a quote, poem, drawing, notecard, or example of student work to greet you when you open the pages.
- Keep the journal in a handy place, whether it’s a pocket, backpack, or desk drawer, ready for the moments when you have a chance to write in it.
- Paste in notes from students, post-its, invitations, postcards, poems.
- Make goals you can accomplish for writing in your journal. A minimum might be a goal to write in your journal at least twice a week, for at least 5 minutes each time.
- You’ll probably find that you’re able to write at various times during your teaching day: while students are doing writing, during planning times, or even during one lunch period per week.
- It’s also useful to write early in the morning or at the end of the school day, or even after supper, as a time to reflect on what happened in your classroom–and what you make of it. Set aside a brief time that works for you, and stick to it.
- If writing on computer is the best way you can get your thoughts out, print out what you’ve written and tape it into your journal so that you’ll be able to reread it in an easily accessible place.
- Use your journal during odd moments to compile lists, make plans, record events, ramble, draw.
- Lower your standards and give yourself permission to write, as Natalie Goldberg suggests, “the worst junk in the world.”
- Try out advice from other writers on ways to keep your notebook, strategies for writing, and even potential writing assignments to give yourself. The following books are wonderful resources to start with:
Buckner, Aimee. (2005). Notebook Know-How. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
Fletcher, Ralph. (1996). Breathing In, Breathing Out Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Goldberg, Natalie. (1990). Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life New York: Bantam Books.
Heard, Georgia. (1995). Writing Toward Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Hinchman, Hannah. (1997). A Trail Through Leaves: The Journal as a Path to Place New York: W.W. Norton and Company.
Lamott, Ann. (1994). Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life New York: Doubleday.