I just bought a new notebook, and I figured it was time to hunker down and write a post about the concept of a Writer's Notebook. I've been promising to do it for a while now. I think I've been reluctant to do it because I had a sense that it would take me f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Going into one of my old notebooks is like going through a photo album or a box of memorabilia from the past. You know how you just get sucked in and one thing leads to another?
The idea of a Writer's Notebook comes from the writing workshop approach to teaching writing. The gurus of this approach work over at The Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University.
I've always had a journal. In 7th grade, I remember writing things like, "Do I want to be pretty or do I want to be cute?" When I grew up and started teaching 6th grade reading and writing, I learned about the concept of a Writer's Notebook.
The founder of The Reading and Writing Project, Lucy Calkins, says:
The recognition that writing begins not as deskwork but as lifework has radical implications for how we and our students rehearse for writing. Whereas some educators imagine that rehearsal for writing begins with listing and choosing among topics, brainstorming ideas, mapping alternative forms, and experimenting with various leads, most writers say that rehearsal for writing is not a string of exercises that warms up a writer just prior to the process of drafting but a way of life. Rehearsal is not even something that occurs in conjunction with any one piece of writing; it is a state of readiness out of which one writes.
For me, my Writer's Notebook is more like a Life Notebook. It's a place to collect my ideas, my insights, my lists, my goals, the things that amuse me, questions I have, words that make me smile.
But it is not a journal. I write a separate journal on my computer that is full of angst and rambling and freewriting in an attempt to unlock my deepest feelings. My notebook is something that I carry around with me at all times (you never know when the inspiration is going to strike!). It's something that can become public at any moment.
Here are some examples of things I do in my notebooks:
Strategy #1: Collect Quotes
- I simply jot down quotes that resonate with me. I read and reread these when I add new things to my notebook. It's interesting to see the types of quotes change as my life changes.
Strategy #2: Notes from Presentations
- When I attend workshops, lectures, classes, etc., I like to take notes in my notebook rather than on the handout. I find that I file handouts away and never reference them again, whereas I read my notebooks over and over.
Strategy #3: Logistical Stuff
- As you can see, I make "To Do" lists, I record directions to people's homes, phone numbers, etc. It's a catch-all place. It's like sticky notes, but it's all in one place and nothing ever gets lost.
Strategy #4: Travel Notes
- When I'm traveling, I take notes about what I do each day. That way, when the trip is over and I want to write a Friends & Family Update or a blog post, then I can remember everything.
Strategy #5: Lists
- And more lists, lists, lists. I am a verifiable list-maker. Hey, I need to go add that to my blogger profile. I make lists about absolutely everything. I make lists of who I want to invite to my birthday party. Lists about who came to my birthday party. Lists about things I'm looking forward to. Lists of moments in my life when I felt most authentic. Lists about what I want to be when I grow up. Lists about things that bring me joy. Lists of guys I've dated.
Strategy #6: Collect Ideas
- I brainstorm various ideas with webs (or lists, of course!). The webs above relate to gift ideas I have for my husband and best friend.
Strategy #7: Develop Ideas
- After I pick an idea off my lists, I develop it. The example above includes my ideas for starting a neighborhood time bank.
Strategy #8: Artifacts
- I tape artifacts into my notebook (e.g., movie ticket stubs, museum admission stickers, sticky notes from other people, etc.) that help me remember important or interesting things.
- I am addicted to using colorful, Sharpie pens. Unfortunately, those pens bleed through pages really easily. Therefore, I have to use a special Sketchbook from Moleskine that has thicker paper. My friend, Camella, changes the type of notebook she uses every time. She prefers the variety.
- When I finish a notebook, I flip through it and transfer anything that I'm still thinking about to my new notebook.
- When I'm ready to store an old notebook, I put a label on the outside to indicate the start and end dates contained in the notebook.
- I always write my name and contact information inside my notebooks so they can be returned if I lose one. They are very valuable to me!
I think that's it for now! Please let me know if you have any questions...