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GUEST BLOG POST: Writer’s Notebooks: Traveling as a Pathway to Writing More (for You!)

Sarah Mulhern Gross has been a middle school language arts teacher and currently teaches 9th and 12th grade English.  She has a keen interest in young adult fiction and nonfiction and strives to connect her students with authors outside the classroom.  Her classroom library holds over 1,000 books which she lends out to students and teachers at her high school.  She currently co-teaches 9th grade Humanities, a combined history and world literature class, also intertwined with Biology and Software Applications.  She believes this interdisciplinary approach allows her students to succeed in thinking outside the box and nurtures their creativity.  Sarah loves writing and currently blogs at TheReadingZone.
As a teacher, I always hit a wall when summer comes.  I am exhausted and ready to relax, thinking of days spent by the pool and hiking with my dog. But I also see the summer as my time to write and read as much as I want my students to write and read.  I always make grand plans for the summer but when the time comes, I end up taking a detour.  I’m tired!  And writing is so haaaard.  (Yes, I sound like my students!)  This summer, though, I am determined to read/write more.  Last summer I got married, which took up a lot of my free time (in a good way, of course!).  I did manage to draft a book proposal for a professional publisher so I aim to polish that this summer and work on a novel.  I know it’s hard to start writing, so I have been thinking a lot about what I need to do this summer.  You know, besides spending time on Twitter and blogging.
Before school lets out for the summer each year I find myself book talking, lending books from my classroom library, and encouraging students to continue using Goodreads over the summer.  I’ve had a lot of luck with students reading over the summer, thanks to the love of reading they discover during the school year.  But writing is always an uphill battle.  I’ve tried summer work packets, journal prompts, and everything else I can think of.  For some reason, writing seems to be difficult for students in the summer, even when there are no rules and no assignments to complete.
And if I am completely honest, I find myself making excuses to avoid writing too.  So I can’t really blame my students!  But over the years, I have found one type of writing I am always willing to do.  No matter how busy I may be, no matter where I may be, travel journal writing gets me writing.
Even when I am busy I have found one pathway to writing that always works — journaling about the places I visit.  When my husband and I travel, I always carry a Moleskine notebook and a few pens with me in my carry-on and in my backpack so that I can jot down memories when we have downtime.  So far, I have filled notebooks in central Mexico, Ireland, and the Western Caribbean.  I take time each night to write about our day and I find myself falling into a routine of writing each night before bed.  I’ve written on buses, on beaches, in cars, on planes, and on mountains.  Bumpy roads, turbulence, rough seas — nothing has stopped my travel writing.  I love being able to look back at the Moleskines on my shelf, knowing they hold memories of our journeys.
When I realized travel journals work for me, I started recommending them to my students.  On a personal level, I recommended that my sister, who is entering 7th grade, bring a journal with her on our trip to Ireland.  After explaining my journals, she agreed and has already packed a journal and special pens in her carry-on.  I have told my own students to bring journals with them to camps, beach houses, family vacations, and mission trips.  It doesn’t matter what the journal looks like; I’ve had students use notebooks, Moleskines, blogs, and anything else you can think of.  What matters is the writing.
There are no rules for travel journals.  You can write about the events of the day or just record a special moment.  Maybe you like to sketch and want to include illustrations of your day.  Or maybe you want to glue ephemera into the pages so that you have tangible reminders of your trip.  A travel journal can be anything you want it to be.  Maybe you aren’t traveling, but just taking day trips during summer.  It doesn’t matter!  What is important is that it gets you writing.
So grab a notebook, put a pen in your pocket, and and get writing this summer!  Hand a notebook to your kids and suggest they write and draw about the events of their summer.  Simple writing like this can and will get you into the habit of daily writing!

7 thoughts on “GUEST BLOG POST: Writer’s Notebooks: Traveling as a Pathway to Writing More (for You!) Leave a comment

  1. Thanks for just validating how hard it can be to write in the summer. There are so many other things to do. It’s easier to do something else. Last year I made notes about my trip to New York City. While this year I am traveling to Europe with my oldest daughter. I love the easy way travel journals allow for just random notes. Then later, I can turn them into stories.


  2. I have a private blog about Isabelle’s daily life that’s for family only. Hence, I write daily. However, I have the tendency not to blog when we’re away for the night. Since we’re planning a family vacation later this summer, a travel might be the best way to capture what we do on a daily basis (and then I can upload the pages from it to her private blog for the family to see once we return). Thank you for the inspiration Sarah!


  3. I like the idea of a travel journal for our kids – this might be something to propose for our in-coming sixth graders for the summer. My students (and I!) love to write about our travels; it’s possible to tack on postcards and menus and other “fun stuff” which can also form the basis of new writing. Great idea!


  4. I hope that you and your sister have fun in Ireland! That will be a great experience for both of you.

    Typically I read for pleasure much more than I write as well. I think it is because of the aspect that I am often exhausted by the time I have some free time, and reading is my relaxing escape.

    Lately most of the writing I have been doing has been academic for my classes. I look forward to making more time to experiment with all the different genres in writing though and often have ideas running through my head that I jot down in my writer’s notebook. I love your idea of making sure to document travels well. In my YA novel work in progress (that has been largely abandoned since I went back to school), I was weaving in some aspects from Mexico. Though I kept journals, I did not necessarily have the level of detail I would have liked, so in the future I am going to focus on not only recording memories but also making sure that I have a high level of detail for future writing projects!


  5. It’s a terrific idea to help start the writing habit, because whatever anyone thinks, they usually love to travel, & to tell about their adventures, so keeping a journal is a good and free souvenir! At my school, all students from the youngest to the oldest keep field journals in order to capture experiences they have on trips, and they go on many. I’ve always believed that this kind of writing informs all the other writing they do. Thanks for your ideas.


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