Katherine Bomer · lucy calkins · memoir · minilesson · nurturing · writing · writing process

Process Log Gets My Mind In-Motion Again

writing memoirs
When Lucy had us keep Process Logs for each piece we wrote for one of her classes, I (at first) thought it was a waste of time. I wondered how it would help me as a teacher. But, I trusted my professor, so I kept them. By the end of the semester I realized how valuable process logs were not just as a writer, but as a teacher of writing. And right now, at 10:42 p.m. on a Sunday night, as I find myself writing my minilesson for Tuesday, I found myself going back to that process log I kept a year and a half ago for help. AND OH MY GOSH, it is so helpful!

I found that I struggled with the nurturing stage of my memoir, which parallels the fact that I’m having a bit of trouble writing a developing lesson for Tuesday. (My kids are picking their seed ideas tomorrow: lesson written – check!) Hence, when I went through my process log, I found references to several exercises in Bomer’s Book Writing A Life that were helpful to me during the nurturing stages. In fact, on Sunday, November 12th, 2006, I wrote the following in my process log:

Back to Bomer! I read further in her book and did the exercise “Inside Me/Outside Me,” from pages 132-134 of her book. This was an incredibly helpful exercise… one I know I’ll do with my kids this-coming year when we study memoir in Writing Workshop.

Ah, so that’s what I’m going to use to teach my kids tomorrow!

And, for Thursday’s minilesson, I came up with a way to approach it thanks to what I wrote on that same November day in 2006:

This activity led me into Bomer’s “Event or Memory” Exercise on page 154 of her book. I answered the questions “What I thought/felt during it…” “What I feel/think about it now, years later…”

In the words of William Zinsser, author of On Writing Well: The Classing Guide to Writing Nonfiction, I’ll leave you with a few of his wise words with regarding the art of writing memoir:

• We’re looking for whatever it is that makes you unique. Write about what you know and what you think (133).
• The memoir writer takes us back to some corner of his or her past that was unusually intense… (135)
• Think narrow, then, when you try the form. Memoir isn’t the summary of a life; it’s a window into a life, very much like a photograph in its selective composition (135).
• But the most interesting character in a memoir, we hope, will turn out to be the person who wrote it. What did that man or woman learn from the hills and valleys of life (144-5)?
• Writers are the custodians of memory, and that’s what this chapter is about: how to leave some kind of record of your life, and of the family you were born into (281-2).

From Zinsser’s Book, Recorded in my process log on 12/1/06.

2 thoughts on “Process Log Gets My Mind In-Motion Again

  1. i’m a first-year teacher…any way we could see an example of your process log? i’m always looking for new ideas.

    thanks for your site…it’s made my first year easier and i’ve learned a lot.


  2. That sounds like a great reflective practice. So much of teaching and learning is ‘in the moment’, but if we forget those moments we might struggle to transfer the learning to a new context. Keeping a record is definitely a good idea.


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