Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Notebooks: Bound or Digital? That is the Question

Today's piece is part of the Slice of Life Challenge hosted on Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers.  Thanks Stacey and Ruth

Yesterday was the first day of Teachers Write hosted at Kate Messner's blog.  I was excited to see many of the participants from Slice of Life joining this writing event.  This is my first year to participate and I'm looking forward to continuing to build my writing community.  Today's post is a reflection of yesterday's conversation --- and a continued problem for me.  I hope you can help.  


Notebooks:  The Beginning
It's been a little over ten years now since I trained to work as a literacy coach in my district.  I often look back at that time, not just as training to be a literacy leader, but also a training in life.  I learned many life lessons along the way and changed the way I do so many things.  Our trainer at the time, Max Brand, taught me perhaps the most important lesson:  not to TEACH literacy, but to LIVE literacy.  

Along the journey I picked up a notebook and began to write.  It was truly the best time for me to pick up a notebook as my grandfather had just passed away.  I was devastated, but somehow I found comfort in tracing back through the stories we shared and recording snippets in my notebook.  Somehow I found happiness among the sorrow as I remembered working in his workshop, the ways he'd make my grandma crazy, his family slideshow presentations, his myriad of life lectures, and his wonderful way with people.  

Picking up a notebook in these days wasn't the first time I had written.  I had notebooks here and there along life, but they hadn't amounted to much.  Probably my best notebooks were poetry notebooks filled with poetry I had written in my younger days.  It was, however, the first time I had really committed to keeping up with a notebook.  For years I recorded moments in life that made me pause:  a memory from long ago (yes, there are a lot of grandparent stories), funny things my children said or did, poetry, phrases, ideas, lines from books I read, webs of ideas, conversations I overheard (yes, creepy I know --- but, admit it, you do it too), articles that caught my attention.  My notebook was a messy catch-all for all I was noticing.  

Life got busy every now and then, causing me to move away from my notebook, but I always came back. A few years ago, I found tech.  Oh, tech.  Yes, it changed my thinking yet again, but it took me away from my notebook.  I was more likely to find a device in my hand than a notebook.  I've written about this dilemma before.  Yesterday, I read Kate's post about notebook, and I was catapulted right back to, perhaps, my greatest writing challenge:  capturing ideas.

Why Paper?
My biggest goal for this writing challenge is to find an effective way for me to capture ideas yet again.  Honestly, when participating in Slice of Life over half of my ideas came from revisiting my notebook (other half were from that day events --- daily writing will do that to you).  There's something to be said for physically writing an idea.  For some reason, ideas I've written by hand feel like they stay with me longer; I can locate them in a snap.  Hand writing an idea makes it easier to grow and yet keep a trail.  In my notebook I can easily cross out words, list possibilities off to the side, highlight favorite phrases, draw pictures to help me think.  However, I'm not the neatest person in the world and even I sometimes I have difficulty reading my quick thoughts.

Why Tech?
Yet, ideas come in the craziest places and my notebook is too big to lug around.  For a year or so I carried a smaller notebook with the intent of moving ideas into my notebook, but they never got moved.  Small notebooks, in my world, are easily forgotten.  What to do with these ideas that hit me as we ride the motorcycle through the hills, as I sit in coffee shops, when I'm waiting on a game to start?  Tech.  Using tech to record ideas allows me to easily include pictures that have started my thinking.  It allows me to easily link information connected to my idea.  With tech, I can grow ideas in a different way.   With tech I can voice record, add images, type, list, and so much more.  I've written ideas on several different apps only to, as Kate said, forget I have them until I stumble upon them one day.  Another concern with going digital is accessibility, will I always be able to return to the pages?  (See apps I will be considering here:  Writer's Notebooks.  Going Digital)  


My Goals
March's Slice of Life Challenge followed by May's Poetry Challenge have really helped me to get back into the habit of writing.  For this reason, I think I am going to make all of my goals about getting ready to write.  I'm going to make all of my goals about finding a system that works to capture ideas.  Here are my goals for this event:

  1. Find THE App!:  My first goal is to find an app that works for capturing ideas.  I need something that can have images, (links and voice would be a plus), tags, writing/drawing capabilities, can be linked (synced would be best) with Evernote (Evernote ALMOST WORKS, but it doesn't feel "journal-like" enough and it doesn't have drawing capabilities).  
  2. Capture at Least One Idea a Day:  During the summer it is easier to find time to write. I usually begin my day writing, but I'm not always as good about taking time to write down ideas and things I notice.  I'm going to really work on this side of my writing.
  3. Figure Out the Role of My Notebook:  Is there a point where I want to move ideas into my notebook?  Are there certain types of writing that work best with a notebook (I'm wondering about poetry here)?  
  4. Organize:  I really need to figure out some way to organize, color code, prioritize --- do something with all of this thinking.  
More About Notebooks
Have you seen Taylor Swifts commercial at the movie theaters.  I honestly can't even tell you what product she's endorsing (sad for advertisers), but I'm fascinated with her notebook.  Have you seen the way she is has it coded?  I think you need to see it so I looked it up (now I know, Diet Coke). 




Here are some of my favorite sites/posts about notebooks:




24 comments:

  1. Notebooks have always been a puzzle for me too. Thanks for the links, I will explore them further. Check into the app Noteability (it's $1.99). I think you can draw, take photos, and type with it. I saw people using it at All Write.

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    1. Elsie,
      Thanks for the suggestion. I use this app for reading PDFs, but hadn't really thought about it a a Writer's Notebook. I'll take a look at it again.

      Notebooks are a puzzle.
      Cathy

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    2. The app is Notability, I guess I'm not a careful reader in the middle of the word. :-)

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  2. Cathy, thanks for all the links-I'm always interested in new stuff! I don't have an app in mind that does all those things, but do store things in Google Drive that I want to access from anywhere. It will do pics too, I think. And sometimes I just e-mail my pics to myself, then off load them to IPhoto. I keep constant Word files of all the writing I do for my blog & other things I work on, but first I use a notebook, enjoy the slowness of it, do some sketching, etc. I'm starting a new one for Teachers Write, but have used notebooks for a long time, with my students and to do lessons, and to sketch. I'm kind of all over the place. I think you just have to do what works best for you! Love all that you said here, much to think over!

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    1. Linda,
      Google docs is a terrific tool. I do love the way you can access it from anywhere. You are smart to keep constant word files of your blog. I have never attempted this and sometimes worry about losing everything.

      You make a terrific point about the slowness of a notebook. There is something about thinking, forming the letters, writing the words that causes one to pause. I think it is great that you sketch. I need to do more of that, but drawing is such a challenge for me.

      Cathy

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  3. I l.o.v.e. buying journals and then I tell myself I should write...and sometimes I do. Thanks for the inspiration to capture an idea each day. Like you, I want to find an app, but I love putting ideas on paper.
    Hmmmm....

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    1. I do they same thing with notebooks! I think one of my issues is I didn't really start writing until I did stuff with the local NWP branch. I wasn't in the habit of bringing a notebook each time, and they gave us notebooks at every PD I went to. So I had a bunch of barely used notebooks laying around. Then I went to Summer Institute and did a blog. I like the notebook for personal thoughts (I need to get myself to actually go back and reread and rework stuff), but the blog for things to "publish" (this is all one-and-done writing...I also need to work on that!).

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    2. Chris,
      Like you I like to buy new notebooks. There's something about choosing a notebook, the potential of the blank pages, the possibilities of the writing to come. There is something about taking pen to paper, isn't there. Today I started playing with the Noteshelf app and had some designing notebooks. Not quite the same --- but fun.

      Slice of Life (I tried to scope a name, but couldn't figure it out),
      I have some barely used notebooks too --- mostly because, as Chris said, they're fun to buy. You make an excellent point about rereading and reworking. I don't do that nearly enough either.

      Thanks for stopping,
      Cathy

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  4. I LOVE beautiful notebooks...I have one that I still keep....but most of my own writer's notebook idea pages are now on Evernote. I can write and doodle...it is not quite like pencil and paper...but it is saved in a safe and easily accessible place. I did buy a "stylus" to make the pencil writing piece easier - a $10 special purchase of a gorgeous wood like face pencil!

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    1. Anita,
      Are you able to write and draw on Evernote? I am able to send things to Evernote, but haven't been able to actually draw right on the pages. How do you like having your pages in Evernote? Did you create notebooks within Evernote? I'd love to hear how you save and organize. I use Evernote all the time in my classroom, but haven't transitioned as easily with thinking of ways to use it in my daily life. That's backwards, isn't it.

      Cathy

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  5. I had to read your post about notebooks after writing about the same thing yesterday. Thanks for linking to my post! I think there's room for all kinds of low and high tech to capture writing. I can't remember which writer (maybe Anne Lamott) shared that she uses index cards to capture ideas on the go. Once written on, they could be put in a box or taped into a notebook. Let me know if you find a good digital app. I sometimes forget that my blog writing is writing, too.

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    1. Kay,
      Love this point, "I think there's room for all kinds of low and high tech to capture writing." I think I need to be more flexible with myself on this. I think I want to make it one way, but there are too many different types of thinking/artifacts/images I collect.

      Cathy

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  6. I started a paper notebook yesterday. Haven't had one at home in a long time. I wanted to write using a different medium this summer; to see if I can capture different ideas. Time will tell.
    P.S. Bookmarked your blog for future reference!

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    1. Jaana,
      Thanks for stopping. You'll have to tell me how you like the paper notebook and what you learn about this medium. I feel just like you in my quest --- time will tell. I'm glad to have this event to give me incentive to figure it out.

      Cathy

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  7. How about AND instead of OR? I have a lovely, soft-and-smooth-on-my-fingers notebook on the couch at home (my main writing space), several small notepads scattered through the upstairs and my purses (including AquaNotes in the shower -- best invention EVER!), AND lists of ideas / links to inspiring slices that I want to use as mentor texts in Evernote. It's not pretty, but it works -- I'm not an artist, so the inability to draw doesn't bother me. Good luck in your quest! :-)

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    1. Jennifer,
      YES to "AND instead of OR!" It's the obvious answer I think. You remind me that perhaps different tools work better for different types of idea collection. I hope this event will help me figure that out a bit. I'm so excited to get started figuring out which digital apps I want to use, but then I read your notebook description "ovely, soft-and-smooth-on-my-fingers notebook" and I want to run to grab my journal. And what's an AquaNote???? Do they have a notebook that records your thoughts as you drift between being asleep and awake? Oh my. Learning and collaborating online is dangerous. Oh, the fun I can have.

      Cathy

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  8. Can't wait to see what you end up using. I am pretty addicted to tech normally so I decided to try and use the notebook for this and see how it feels. Let us know what apps eventually work for you.

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    1. I'll be interested to hear about your notebook time, Katherine.

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  9. Cathy,
    I enjoyed reading your post about the notebook dilemma...I think like JenM-"And" instead of "or". I do like the journal app I shared with you yesterday via twitter-just can't draw and sync with evernote. Maybe the app developers need to know what we're striving for with our quest for the perfect notebook app. I have heard app enthusiasts encourage contacting the developers and letting them know what you're wanting from the app-suggesting the ideas to them-after all, many of them are building the plane as they fly it! ;) (as an aside-I just told Kam yesterday to contact the Minecraft developers as he had an idea for multiplayer mode-so we emailed them to let them know...)
    Happy Writing-your goals all seem doable as well as inspirational!

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    1. Amy,
      My husband said the same thing, "Fill out the app review." Like you, he thinks they will read them and work to improve. I must say "building the plan as they fly it" sounds a little scary....lol.

      Cathy

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    2. Readers, Amy suggested My Daily Journal. Here's the link: http://www.jisoftwareco.com/iPad_Journal/Welcome.html.

      Cathy

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  10. Cathy,
    I'm interested to see how your notebook dilemma unfolds. I'm in a similar place, I think. I have kept a notebook for many, many years, since high school, but the last few years, I just have not used it very much. Instead, I write pretty much everything on the computer. Which I totally love. But which I also feel guilty about because I don't keep up with my writer's notebook. And this was going to be my summer to really get good at evernote, but then my ipad was stolen. Can't wait to see how this unfolds.

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    1. Carol,
      I'm so sorry to hear about your iPad. That's just awful! I'm glad to know I'm not the only one struggling with the dilemma. Maybe with this community, and the time we have to play with ideas during our break, we can get it figured out.

      Cathy

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  11. Interesting... Your niece uses my iPhone, iPod, iPad or any other device where she can type, or record her text. She loves that microphone tool on the 'Notes' pages in Apple devices. But, she also video-records herself using the video capabilities. I love to see her sing her own songs, make up stories, 'interview'' the cat, etc... It seems we will struggle with what works,digital or paper,because we have gotten to use both, but I think her generation will pick up a device and work out how to tell their stories. Thanks for inspiring both of us to write!

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