The title of this post might lead you to believe that I’m talking about a room, or a home, or a place I go to for my own timeouts. Not the case. I have some physical rooms, or spaces, that I do go to when I need down time. In those spaces I might read, zone out, do yoga, or walk (the trails near my home are beautiful). I believe, wholly and completely, that these spaces and places are an integral element of personal wellness. We all need a place of escape. We all need a spot to land. We all need a personal fuel station – a place that allows us to relax, recharge, and eventually, fortify ourselves so that when we walk outside of that space we are ready to step back into the world knowing that we can handle whatever lands at our feet. These places are personal, meaningful, and often, places that are not entirely our own.
Today, I’m focused on a space that is 100% mine. My writers notebook. Some may call it a journal, or a diary, but the name of it doesn’t matter as much as what it does for me.
It is MY space. And yeah, kind of old school in a world saturated by technology, but writing is something I’ve done my entire life. I have always been inclined to put my thoughts on paper. I find comfort in words, they help me process, evaluate, and organize my world. They help me make sense of what is most difficult and celebrate all that is beautiful in my world. There are plenty of both.
I have boxes of old notebooks, each one a milepost marking my journey. Some of my writing is your run of the mill, stream of consciousness, personal journaling. Other entries are my attempts at poetry – the form that I play with most. I have some entries that are memoir – narratives that are intended to give others a view of my world and of my learning…except I’ve never shared them…because sharing your PERSONAL writing is SCARY!
Last October, my notebook approach changed. I attended our state’s annual conference for English teachers. It was the first time that I had been in a few years, and I was excited to go and find new ideas and materials for my classroom. If you have been living under a rock, the words Common Core curriculum mean nothing to you, but for most, these words instill fear and incite anger. Last year was our first “real” year of living with the standards, and it was one of confusion and disillusion. I was looking for answers. I was looking for a way to process my feelings about this major shift in paradigm while still retaining my sense of creative self in the classroom.
I firmly believe that each of us is exactly where we are supposed to be in every moment. Every moment has the ability to teach and inspire. I trust that life works out the way it is supposed to. This conference gave me exactly what I didn’t know I needed.
I hadn’t been writing regularly. I had been focused on keeping up, constantly chasing what I “should” be doing, rather than digging in and examining my days, the changes, my feelings…my world.
And then…Penny Kittle spoke (cue the music of angels…seriously). Penny is an English teacher from New Hampshire who cracked my world, my work, and my heart wide open, turned me upside down, shook me to my core, and set me back down changed, rearranged, and focused. Her work with students is inspiring and thought provoking. Every student who walks in her door is a reader and a writer. She is a reader and a writer. She reminded me that I am a writer (I needed no reminder that I am a reader. I wasn’t THAT lost!), and though this blog may be the only place I ever publish, taking the time to process my world in my notebooks is what keeps me centered, focused, and engaged with the worlds around and within me.
So now, I write. I even draw (which believe me, I am NO artist). I return to my notebook nearly every day, both by myself, and with my creative writing students. My notebook is my refuge.
I love my notebook. I carry it with me everywhere, and I write my life. I have this idea that if more people did this…even those who do not see themselves as writers, the world would be a more reflective and positive place.
The doodles you see are my attempt to teach myself how to draw so that I have another way to make sense of my world. The teacher in me (and the reader) finds so much guidance in books. So, I figured that if I wanted to learn how to draw, I should find a book to help. The doodles and drawings you see in the photos above are inspired by my new favorite tool…
Paired with the words of Penny Kittle last October (and my devouring the words in her published material and her Twitter feed), this book has continually encouraged me to play in my notebook. For that, I am grateful. My notebook, complete with its words and its pictures, help me make meaning of my world.
One final note/request…I am always interested in hearing about the journaling/writing/doodling experiences of others. I love opening my notebook for my students, and I love seeing the notebooks of others. They provide endless inspiration for my own work. If you have experiences to share, please do!!!