Start a Writing Journal

Kari has written a wonderful book on teaching writing... It is ten chapters long and this is installment four. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have!


In my kitchen I keep file folders of new recipes that I want to try.  I have filled three of them and I am still tearing out recipes from the magazines at the dentist’s office, printing out recipes from the internet, and asking friends if I can get the recipe of that yummy hummus I tried at their Greek party last week.  This despite the fact it will take me at least two years to try all of the new recipes that I have collected.  All those new recipes are in one place and every once in a while I will dig through my file folders and find a new recipe that I want to try or it will give me a new idea to improve one of my favorite recipes.

I suggest you do the same thing for all of your writing ideas by keeping what I call a writing journal.  Did you ever wake up in the morning with a great idea, but by the time you stepped out of the shower, the idea was long gone?  Now you can have a place to keep all those ideas:  in your writing journal!  Your writing journal should NOT be like a diary or a day planner, a chronological what-I-do-every–day-of-my-life journal.  Rather, it should be a place for lists, quotes, ideas for stories, and other kinds of great entries.  There of course, will be some not so great entries too, but for the most part, this should be a journal that is fun to keep and that you will want to carry with you.  Have your students or children keep it where they can get at it quickly.

Collect and write entries in your journal, later, as you look through it something will jump off the page and want to be written about.  This is what I call “transplanting an idea.”  Like seedlings that are transplanted into larger pots as they grow, the idea in your writing journal that grabbed your attention needs room to grow into a story, poem or memoir.  Take that idea out of your writing journal, think about it, and then write about it on another piece of paper.  Choose one of the activities that I suggest in the Activities chapter and adapt it for your idea or journal entry.  Make a collection of transplanted ideas, type them up, and put them in a small book.  Make time to write daily entries.  I know one family that sits together and writes.

Make routines or traditions with your writing journals…have an evening where everyone shares their favorite entry, their shortest entry, illustrates one of their entries, etc.
Your writing journal should be small enough to carry around, but big enough to hold all of your great ideas.  It could be as basic as a spiral notebook, or, even better, a bound notebook to encourage you as a writer to keep all your ideas and not rip anything out.  Much like an artist’s sketchbook, your writing journal should be a place where you think through ideas, play with words, or write down profound thoughts and quotes.  It should not be neat and tidy, but rather a place for creative thought.  This journal is where you WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!  Copy the list of suggestions and glue it in your writing journal to give you a jumping off place to start.

Next week: "When Writing is NOT a Blast"

You can leave your thoughts, comments or suggestions here on my feedback page. Thanks!

- Kari