Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Why Notebooks?

This week I finished my 76th notebook and started in on my 77th. I love my notebooks. I treasure the time I spend writing inside the blank pages. I value the reflection it provides. A question I've been asked a lot about notebooks is why? Why do I prefer notebooks to digital writing? 

First let me confess, that I respect all kinds of writing. It's all important. It's all helpful. It's all worthy...but notebook writing tops them all for me. 

1. Connecting. The connection to the page. There's something about the physical connection of pen (or pencil or marker) to a page that feels like coming home to me. I can be anywhere in the world, but the connection to the notebook and the pages inside ground me. I feel closer to the page. I trust it so I write things in my notebook that I wouldn't write anywhere else. 

2. Messy. Notebooks are messy. Harvesting the messy and keeping it reminds me to cherish the mess. Writing is messy. Crossing out. Arrows. Smashing words to fit where there's no space to fit one more thing. There's nothing pretty or orderly about the process of writing. My notebook reminds me of the merit in the mess. 

3. Collecting. Having the thoughts I gather and spew all together is significant. When I go back and wander through the words and doodles, I notice serendipitous connections that I never would have made on my own but because of their placement inside my notebook, something creative and original clicks. 

4. Permission. My notebooks give me permission to be me. I can scribble and doodle and write crazy, outlandish ideas in my notebook. Nobody judges me. Having a place to take chances in my's made me the writer I am today. 

5. Forever. When I started this blog post this morning, I'd typed up a few hundred words on a completely different topic. My judge came out and decided it was no good, so I deleted the words...all the words. GONE. Those ideas, those words...they are gone forever. With a notebook, I can search and find my ideas whenever I like. They aren't all fact, many are silly and boring, but they live inside these pages forever. 

Don't our students deserve the same opportunity to become writers? I believe every writer needs a notebook that belongs to them so they can write and risk and fail and discover and live. 

This year in school we will all have notebooks. We will all have a place to write our story...students and teacher alike. 

Thank you for reading. Please join me at Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life. 


  1. Every time when you write about your notebooks I am at awe. You have this incredible relationship with the notebooks. They give you permission to you to be you and you understand their purpose deeply.

  2. Love this post and your 76 notebooks! My favorite line: "My notebook reminds me of the merit in the mess." You encourage those of us who keep notebooks sporadically to dive in. Thanks for your jubilant excitement about notebooks which you captured in this post.

  3. Michelle, I love your dedication to keeping a notebook. I agree 100% with all the reasons you listed here. When I saw that shelf filled with notebooks, I wondered how often you lose hours just flipping through them? I know I would.

    I started journaling last spring, and it's so interesting to look back and see the far pathway I've traveled in such a short time. You nailed it when you wrote about the permanence of it.

  4. Hooray for notebooks and your beautiful shelves just bursting at the seams with notebook goodness! I loved seeing your work and being reminded that even accomplished, brilliant writers, like yourself have lovely colorful scribbles, too. Inspiring. I can't wait to present my new Kindergarten writers with what is likely to be their first, and hopefully not their last, writing notebook. P.S. I see Pop-Tarts! :-)

  5. Michelle, I like this quote of yours because it gives me permission to gather my messy thoughts for a place to rest and rise when I'm inspired to do so: "My notebook reminds me of the merit in the mess. "


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