Saturday, March 3, 2012

SOLSC #3: Writer's Notebook

Ralph Fletcher in Breathing In Breathing Out reminds us a notebook is "a container to keep together all the seeds you gather until you're ready to plant them (p. 1)."  He continues by offering this advice about keeping these ideas, "Try to leave enough white space around your entries so they can breathe, so you can find them when you reread and react if you feel the urge to do so (p. 27)."  Perhaps it is this white space that allows us to grow these ideas for our writing.   

Some of you know I've been having a bit of a writer's notebook struggle.  Having a device within reach all the time has led me away from my notebook.  When I get an idea for a blog post it's easier to just keep it in a list on my phone.  When I see something I want to remember, I snap a picture.  When I have an idea for a longer text I just start writing it on my computer.  Having lists, short notes, and photos digitally recorded makes it easier to sort, organize, and group notes.  In the last three years I've moved totally away from my notebooks and into digital tools.  I've never been completely comfortable with it.  It has just happened.

As I've been planning slices of writing, I find myself turning to my paper notebooks more than my digital collections.  It's like getting together with a long lost friend.  It's like visiting someone you've shared the same experiences with and putting your stories together.  I seem to remember what is in the hand-written notebooks with greater ease.  It is as if taking the time to write them by hand has placed them in memory.  I find many more ideas within the pages of my notebook than I do in my digital collection.  It somehow seems easier to pick up these ideas and just get started writing as they are often a little more developed than my digital ideas and already seem to have a bit of voice and structure that exists within them.

Perhaps it is time to get back into the habit of keeping my writer's notebook.  Maybe it's time to learn to combine the two mediums.  How do you collect your ideas for writing?  Have you found a way to work between your paper notebook and digital media?  I'd love to hear about it.


  1. Hi Cathy,
    I've been using a paper notebook this year as I write with my students during Quiet 10, the 10 minutes of "quiet writing" we do during writing workshop. I have to agree with you, the ideas that I put on paper are much more developed than any digital notes I have. Thanks for sharing your slice.

  2. Hmmm, you have perfectly captured both sides of this dilemma - paper or no paper. I personally am a paperless girl. Not because I don't like it, but because handwriting takes too long, it's messy for me, and I get frustrated when I can't find paper to write on. It's just easier to email myself than find my notebook and write it down. I wonder if you are on the cusp of change - will future writers use paper or computers? I don't know. I just think you do what is comfortable for you. It sounds like a mix of both for you. Do what you like. What I love about this is that one size does not fit all. :)

  3. Very interesting to think about. I went to a free writing class today at our public library and the teacher was very anti-computer. He was stating that he felt you use a different part of your brain when you type compared to when you write and that he felt typing inhibited the creative side. Not sure about all of that but I think given what you've written above, that it makes me wonder if I should try both and see if I find a difference for myself (currently I do most things via computer and often print them and put them in my writers notebook). Hmmm....thanks for making me ponder

  4. Cathy I finally had time to find your blog too. I've kept journals for years & still return to them. It's too much of a habit. But when I am writing a full piece to put on the blog, I record from the notebook into a file I keep on the laptop so if something happens on the blog I at least have the text to return to. I love the notebooks because I copy poems into it, put pictures from magazines, etc. There is a pull sometimes for me to hurry, hurry & get done but I have resisted so far. I enjoyed hearing your thinking, wondering if returning to the notebook will be valuable.

  5. Thanks for asking this question. It's really made me think about my writing habits. I've read something (I think on Kelly Gallagher's AoW) that confirms what Dana is saying about writing by hand using a different part of the brain . . .. Nevertheless, I find that I'm much more productive and free with my writing when I'm using the computer. My handwriting is messy and I lose confidence and focus when I write by hand. There are also organizational issues that seem to be reduced when I use the computer. I love the idea of the writer's notebook, and I've purchased several lovely notebooks to write in, but I still gravitate towards the computer. Thanks for a very thought provoking slice, Cathy!

  6. I find myself in the same boat, although when my computer or phone aren't handy, I write on whatever is handy. I have notes on Zach's concert program that is sitting on my coffee table. :) I go back and forth between my writer's notebook and my ever present electronic devices. There is something comforting about my notebook though. It feels like home...familiar and warm.


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