My Paper Notebook

My life is almost completely paperless.  I knew I was shifting towards a more digital life when I showed up at the NCTE Annual Conference last year without a pen.  Who goes to a national conference without a pen?  The last vestiges of paper in my life were my grocery list and my calendar.  My husband and I recently started using the AnyList app for our grocery list, so we are able to add grocery items to our shared list throughout the week.  Also, if we decide to divide and conquer the weekly shopping together, we can cross items off the list in real time.  While I’m strolling down the baking isle, I am able to see my husband just picked up some milk over in dairy.  My calendars have also gone paperless.  My husband and I share a calendar on our iPhones, I share a Google calendar with my Two Writing Teachers co-authors, and I use Outlook to schedule my work with teachers.  I am officially paperless.

Although going digital has worked wonders for my life in many ways, a natural consequence of my paperless lifestyle is less use of my writer’s notebook.  My whole life is at my fingertips, and I’m more likely to have my smart phone in my car than my writer’s notebook.  Truth be told, my beloved writer’s notebook sat untouched the entire summer in my basement.  I had packed it in a box for the move to my new school district, and I just never retrieved it.  Instead, I kept a running list of possible writing topics on my iPhone using the Google Drive app.  When it was time to write a blog or a Slice of Life Story, I simply opened up my Google Drive and perused my list.  I didn’t realize I even missed my writer’s notebook… until I unpacked it.

I literally blew the dust off the cover and looked inside.  I found so many snippets of good writing and seeds for future writing projects.

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On a family road trip I wrote: The moon is out, yet it is day.  He has come to guide our travels.  Sounds like a great opening to a picture book or a poem.

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After watching Maddie go down a water slide I wrote: I have watched someone become brave, watched their bravery grow inside of them.  The thing about bravery is you have to do the thing you are most afraid of doing.  It is the doing that makes you braver still.  I could see this becoming an essay or a letter to my children.

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After finding this chart about ‘Soothing Anxious Kids’ in a parenting magazine, I had an idea for a short story.

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I quickly mapped out my story idea.

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And I even wrote a scene.

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Here I had outlined an article idea for my local reading council’s newsletter.  I ended up submitting this for publication.

As I thumbed through my forgotten writer’s notebook, I realized that some things cannot be replaced by technology.  My writer’s notebook is:

  • a place to record observations, not just ideas
  • a place to capture my thinking about big ideas in the small moments of my life (such as what bravery looks like at the water park)
  • a place to keep artifacts that feed my writing life
  • a place to map out ideas
  • a place to play around with scenes and language
  • a place to outline structure before I write
  • and so much more than just a list of ideas

I know some writers have found ways to digitize their writer’s notebook (by using Penultimate, for example).  For me, I like the sound of the pencil scratching across paper.  I like the look of the colored marker as it glides across the page.  I like physically thumbing through the pages to find an idea I had written down long ago.  I feel more inspired and more creative when I take pen to paper.

That’s just me.  How about you?  Have you gone digital with your writer’s notebook yet?  Or are you holding tight to the notebook version as well?