Has it already been two weeks since the last day of #UNHLit15? Unbelievable. Time is flying by, as it always does in the sweet summertime. As I get older, I find myself wanting time to slow down…and that’s one of the perks of a writer’s notebook–it slows down a writer’s thinking. At right is a note I jotted to myself during Tom Newkirk’s class two short weeks ago. I’d been pondering the notion of length in my instruction–reading longer texts, writing longer pieces, sustaining an idea or a reflection for a longer period. While brainstorming ways to do that, I realized notebooks were one way to add length to the thinking process. They slow down a writer’s thinking, making it keep pace with the measured movement of a hand across a page, which is slower than the tapping of keys across a keyboard. As Tom Newkirk writes in his credo, “I believe that slow reading runs counter to a media culture that stresses speed, distraction, and a loss of history.” I believe the same thing of slow writing, in notebook form–it draws out thought in a way digital writing just can’t.
Notebooks also make thinking visual. There is something about switching colors when revising, drawing lines to connect a tangled web of thoughts, or adding ideas to a pre-existing idea to show tangible growth that just can’t be done with a computer, voice recording, or video. As I’ve pondered the theme of power–the overarching theme of my English 12 curriculum for this upcoming year–I’ve returned again and again to this page at my right, adding ideas, jotting inspirations, and connecting them to one another. I’ve loved watching the page become more and more crowded, my thoughts finally spilling over onto the facing page before making it into my typed syllabus and curriculum map. This visual map of my thinking is the most important part of my writing process, and without it, the typed pages I hand my students would lack coherence, focus, and quality.
Finally, notebooks illustrate volume in a way typed papers or blog posts just can’t. Revisiting my old notebooks provides me a tangible location to mine ideas from–I can flip back to the summer of 2013 and find wild scrawls from my first class with Penny Kittle, or the fall of 2006 to see a plethora of hearts marking my budding courtship with my husband, or the spring of 2009 when I was frantically finishing my Masters thesis, evidenced by frantic scribbling and much crossing-out of ideas. All of this evidence of my thinking takes up an entire bookshelf in my office, showing me proof that my thinking has evolved over time. I want my students to feel that same sense of wonder and growth when they fill their second notebook by the end of our school year together.
Notebooks are a map, a timeline, a guide–to our lives, our minds, and our hearts. They create a space for creative contagious concentration that is tangible and necessary, and which transcends the nebulous nature of digital writing.