Friday, December 4, 2009

Journaling through NCTE

I filled a journal during sessions at NCTE. I've been thinking a lot about journals and my journal habit, especially after some twitter conversations about them, so I thought I'd start my reflecting on NCTE with a little peek into my journal. I journal and I blog and I tweet, but journaling is different more primal, more creative somehow. I know that no matter how easy it easy for me to connect with the computer in my pocket, I'll continue to journal. I journal because:

  • It's tactile and my brain processes information that way.
  • It's visual and when I draw and sketch I make connections between information and my long term memory.
  • It's fun.
  • It helps me think beyond the surface of things.
  • I've jounal sinced I was 15.
  • I enjoy journaling.
  • It helps me pay attention.
  • I stay with the speaker in my mind if I journal; it keeps me focused.
  • I'm less likely to talk to the person sitting next me if I'm journaling (definitely something my own high school teachers appreciated, I can tell you).

I barely remember a time when I didn't carry a sketch book or a composition book or a Moleskin or a mini-spiral Mead notepad around with me. I'm a journaler. My journal is what Fletcher would call my writer's notebook. In it go notes, ephemera--artifacts that get me writing--scraps of poetry, ideas, outlines for books, photographs and drawings.

I write my way to knowing. As E.M. Forster says, "How can I know what I think till I see what I say?"

When I take notes in my journal I code things. Red question marks are for quetstions (an obvious one). Q is for quotes I'd like to remember. A green, double-ended arrow <-> signifies a connection while a blue H notes where I record my thinking (also where I write things as if I'm talking back to the speaker... erase those when I publish my notes as they are more for me than for everyone). A green B denotes a book title and a light bulb an idea. If the light bulb has a red T or red W next to it, I've classified my idea for either a workshop (W) or for teaching (T). If I write LU I'm telling myself to look up something later to either verify or extend what I've heard. At the end of each conference day (or when I get a chance), I make an index type list on the back pages of my journal. I devote 1-2 pages to book titles and write down all of the green B titles I noted. I do the same for quotes, things to look up and ideas. That way, at any time, I can flip to the back of my journal and have an overview of what I captured.

With a recent post on the English Companion Ning, Penny Kittle reminded me that we rarely get to peek into each others' journals, so I thought I'd invite you into mine. I've scanned a few pages: my opening word art piece, notes I took during Gary Anderson and Tony Romano's session on creative nonfiction and an index page of quotes:

Peek Into My Journal

I have just started to go back through my notes and sit down with teacher friends to talk about what I learned and thought about while I was there. I've been holding off writing about NCTE. If I put it off I can still savor the ideas, sink into the swirl of thoughts, chase rabbitt trails and research citations--pretend it's not over. Until next year, I can hold onto that thinking in my journal.