Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Breathing In, Breathing Out

Keeping a Writer's Notebook by Ralph Fletcher. Heinemann, 1996. I am re-reading this because I want to work on writing more intentionally this summer. I have kept writer's notebooks for years but I don't really like them. Fletcher suggests using a notebook as a place to save ideas, questions, quotations that catch your ear, lists, images, or short pieces that are seeds for greater things. Just a sentence or description of an important moment can be enough to later spark finer writing. I know he is right, but I find keeping to a notebook hard to do.

The thing is, I hate my handwriting. I am dyslexic and I get really frustrated with spelling difficulties, errors crossed out and botched sentences. I hate how ugly the first draft is and I hate going back to read what I wrote. Since I've been writing on the computer I am much happier. Spell check has made me a better speller and the editing options are so much more graceful and smooth with a word processor. I'd much rather keep my journal on the computer. I type faster than I write.

But Fletcher makes a case for keeping a pen and paper journal. This slim volume is a series of short chapters giving key points to the benefits and techniques that work best for a variety of writers. I am finding it inspiring. It is challenging me to broaden my vision for writing, while at the same time zooming my focus down to the small moments of daily life that hold intense emotion and meaning. This is a book to savor and keep close at hand for the times when my well is dry and my edges feel dulled.

What writing books do you keep close at hand? What is your experience with a writer's notebook? Do you find it helpful, challenging, inspiring?


Shelley said...

I keep a small "chunky style" spiral-bound notebook with me now that I'm trying to write haiku with some regularity.

I have tried all kinds of fancier notebooks (I have a moleskine that I love), but I find my infernal internal editor has a field day with them... "You don't want to write THAT in that nice notebook! You don't really think THAT's worth saving, do you? Wait until you have something REALLY GOOD to write." I think the moleskine has maybe two pages written on.

So el cheapo dime store spiral bounds it is. For me, anyway. And I do think it helps me "catch" some haiku that might otherwise have gotten away.

Monica Edinger said...

I've tended to keep a notebook of sorts, but do not center my classroom around notebooks. (BTW, Ralph was my writing teacher when I was at the 2nd Teachers College summer writing institute in the early 80s.)

I teach writing by immersing kids in a particular genre, content, or something else. Something that gets them excited and eager to write. If a child wants to keep a notebook, fantastic! However, I do not build my writing workshop around notebooks. (I do use journals though.)

A new book on writing that I love is Gail Carson Levine's Writing Magic. I recommend it highly.

NYC Teacher said...

I love Aimee Buckner's NOTEBOOK KNOW-HOW. I spent a lot of time trying to emulate her this year ( and That being said, I also like Ralph's Lessons on Writer's Notebooks (comes with a CD-ROM to boot!).