notebooks · summer vacation · writing workshop

Summer Writing: A Confession and a Goal

twt notebook featured image

All of us at Two Writing Teachers are thinking about and planning for summer writing. Summer writing inspiration for our students and summer writing goals for ourselves. Kathleen wrote this fabulous post about using QR codes to support students’ summer notebook writing. Beth shared inspiration in her recent Summer Writing Bucket List post. And Melanie reflected on the importance of summer writing for both students and teachers.

My summer writing goal begins with a confession. I have not been a faithful notebook keeper. There, I said it. I am a sporadic notebook user, with earnest intentions and lofty dreams of building a habit of regular notebook use.

Instead of keeping a notebook, I store drafts on my blog. I revisit them often and rework and revise some until they become published posts.  But, as I grow as a writer, I’m discovering that my blog doesn’t meet many of my writer needs. It isn’t  handy in those moments when I overhear snippets of conversation and want to record them or when I wish to jot down a quick idea or observation. It isn’t convenient in the middle of the night when I sometimes do my best composing as I lie awake. I don’t want to turn on the computer then and by daylight the lines have vanished from my brain. I think of and forget too many seeds and ideas because I do not have a notebook with me.

And let’s not even talk about how I squirm when students ask me about my writer’s notebook. I can’t speak from experience because I’m not walking the walk as a notebook keeper, and that is holding me back as a teacher.

In her recent post Ideas and Inspiration for Summer Writing, Melanie encourages us to “make a decision to keep (our) own writing (lives)  going throughout the summer and share that decision with (our) students.” Since my students have left for summer, I’m declaring my summer writing goal to you, my Two Writing Teachers community.

My summer writing goal is to build a notebook habit. And I’d like to share my journey with you.

This is my current notebook:

notebook cover
My notebook cover

notebook inspiration

notebook writing ideas
From my notebook- ideas for Slices


I’ve had it for almost two years. I don’t write in it often. I’m not even sure if I like it.

When I started this notebook,  I wanted it to be a place where I could jot down ideas, vent, doodle, record snippets, store inspirational pieces of writing, play with words, and tuck in things that might spark future writing ideas. I divided  it into sections and labeled them; inspiration, ideas, notes. I didn’t plan to use it for drafting pieces I intended to publish because I am a writer who does a lot of revising as I write, and I like to do that kind of writing on the computer.

The first thing I did after deciding my goal was to contact Michelle Haseltine. If you are a Slicer, then you know Michelle. And if you know Michelle, you know she is an amazing notebook keeper. She has written in notebooks since 1982. She shared this post about her notebooks in March, and I for one was inspired. And she wrote this one from her notebook’s point of view.  Last June she shared her thoughts about introducing students to notebooks and supporting their notebook habit all year long right here on Two Writing Teachers . Her reflections and suggestions were credible because she was a notebook keeper.

Michelle kindly offered me the following tips:

  • She suggested I try morning pages in my notebook. You can read more about morning pages on Julia Cameron’s website
  • She instructed me to bring my notebook EVERYWHERE with me.  I’d already decided I needed to start doing this and had been thinking about Donalyn Miller’s advice to readers about always having a book with them in case they have a “reading emergency.” By bringing my notebook everywhere, I am now going to be prepared for writing emergencies.
  • She guided me to give myself permission to be messy and fill my notebook with anything. I needed to hear this because part of what has held me back is the notion that each page should be an artistic masterpiece.
  • She reminded me to write for me. One of the things I’ve been thinking about is whether to keep two notebooks, one to share at school and one just for me. For now I’m going to focus on one, knowing that there will be parts I choose to share and others I prefer to keep private.
  • And she encouraged me to get special pens/markers/pencils just for me and just for notebook use! I’m starting with Paper Mate flair tip pens, Stadtler fine tip pens and General Pencil Company cedar pencils.

Now you know. I am not yet a writer who regularly uses a notebook. But I’ve got the tools and some great advice. And I’ve run out of excuses. My summer writing goal is to become a regular notebook user. I’ll be back with an update.

Will you join me?

23 thoughts on “Summer Writing: A Confession and a Goal

  1. Lisa,
    I love the honesty of your post! I find myself going between my phone and my notebook often. They seem to compliment one another like peanut butter and jelly. Recently, I went with my husband to an appointment. My husband left the room for an X-Ray and when he returned about 20-30 minutes later I was deep in thought in my notebook. He remarked, “I knew you’d find a friend to chat with while I was gone.” I had never thought of my notebook as a friend to chat with before, now I do! I just love thinking of my phone and notebook as my PB&J friends!


  2. Lisa, I am like you. I have goals for notebook use but don’t use it consistently. I use my blog and google docs as a place to draft and think through ideas. I too have those notebooking thoughts early in the morning and sometimes I write them down. I believe it speaks to where I am as a writer. It reflects my commitment to the process and the type of writing I currently do. Also I think it show who I am and how I process. I know with longer term writing projects a notebook would make sense for me, but for the short bursts of writing I do. it doesn’t fit me– yet. One extra bonus around my notebooking deficit: this realization/confession helps me understand my students who resist the notebook better. Thank you for your post. It made me think a little more about my writing life.


  3. It feels so good to know there are so many of us making a go at it. I have tried evernote, google docs, notebooks, live binders, blogspot, and wordpress. Now I find my daily writing most comfortable in a few notebooks I use for responding to my reading using Scrivener on my laptop. Continuing to support each other with our intentions and practice is so helpful to me.


  4. I’m with you! Spent waaaay too much time choosing a notebook at Target yesterday. Black Flair pen, too. Like exercise, writing is best in the morning. Thank you for your honesty and inspiration. I’ve never really kept a notebook, and it’s time. Looking forward to your reflections!


  5. Thank you for this. Since the March SOLC, I’ve been toying with the idea of using summer to get my writing notebook going. We still have two days of school to go, but now I have a personal mission for summer. Thanks, too for all the links; they’ve given me some good ideas, especially the morning pages idea. I am definitely a morning person, so this will be how I start my summer writing mission.


  6. As I’m moving from teaching first grade to teaching fourth grade, I’ve been thinking a lot about using a writer’s notebook more regularly this summer. I love the idea of morning pages and since morning is my prime writing time, this might be a great place to start. I’m already totally on board with fun writing supplies! Good luck with your notebook–and thanks for a wonderful, timely post!


  7. Lisa, What a terrific post! Thanks to you and to all who commented for your kind words! I rarely draft blog posts in my notebook. Writing a blog post is a different kind of writing. I figure things out in my notebook. The beauty of it is your notebook can be what you need it to be! Can’t wait to see where this journey takes you!


  8. I love that you bought yourself some special tools. I find this often helps to motivate me when trying something new or setting a goal. It’s like getting a new pair of running shoes when training for a race. I am a sporadic notebook user as well. I think it all depends on your needs at the time. I have found that I am finally using different notebooks for different purposes, something I had always wanted to do and just couldn’t seem to master. Can’t wait to see where your notebook takes you!


  9. I kept journals at different periods of my life, but not for a long while. Teaching and family maintenance consumed me for the most part, but I did keep reading throughhout it all. Not sure if a notebook would work for me now since my daily writing habit has become blogging and responding to blogs. Interesting post.


  10. Oh Michelle gives such good advice! I think her best advice snippet would be to fill that notebook with anything and everything. I have tried, on occasion, to be more organized with my notebooks and divide it into sections and it just has never worked for me. It’s too constricting and then I ended up not using it and went back to my previous method of having it be an everything notebook.

    I also recommend the morning pages. It’s these pages that keep the prime pumped.

    I can’t wait to see how your writing goes this summer!


  11. Oh, how I am in your boat! I have a journal that has traveled all over the US with me for the past year and has exactly two pages of writing. I, too, use my drafts file to store writing until it ready to be published. I needed this nudge to get me writing with pen and paper again.


  12. I’ve been reading Katherine Bomer’s “The Journey is Everything” and she writes about the importance of notebook writing. So I tried. I wrote out my last blog post in the notebook. For one thing, my handwriting is big, so it took up 5 pages. And I totally changed the flow once I went to drafting on the computer. Maybe it was good to try, but I didn’t like it. I think I’ll stick to my notebook for shorter bursts of writing, not necessarily drafting, but a kind of idea storage. I, too, admire Michelle’s notebooks. I saw her in real life at NCTE and she had all her colorful pens. I have to realize that for me that would be stressful, not fun.


    1. I think you are on to something Margaret, which is that we need to each figure out what works for us individually as writers. I too don’t like drafting in a notebook and see it as a place for brainstorming, quick writing and idea storing.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Like your post. I also have not been good about keeping a notebook. I do write several times a week in my garden notebook and it is helping build the habit of writing often. Now I need to take that habit and apply it to catching small moments out and about in my daily life. Thanks for the push!


  14. Michelle is the BEST when it comes to notebooks! Thank you for your honesty about your notebook usage. I’m sure it will resonate with many readers. Looking forward to hearing more about your notebooking journey!


  15. Blogging changed my notebook usage habits. I’m much more of a drafter on the computer (or in Evernote) now. I’ve tried the digital notebook thing, but it never worked for me.

    I can’t wait to read the update on your notebook journey in August/September.


  16. I am such a sporadic notebook user- I go stretches where I use it a lot and stretches where I do not. I bought a summer notebook and am trying to be good about writing. I like your ideas (and had never heard of morning pages). One of my problems is that i will be on the road for most of the summer, so routines are hard (and sometimes impossible), but I am trying!


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