I’ve been in love with journaling since I could remember/retain what journaling meant; I remember my first diary very clearly. It was pink, glittery, and had a lock that was sure to keep out my little sister. My grandmother bought it at the dollar store, along with the pack of pens that I would lose in the next hour. But that diary….
It seemed to me (and still does to some extent) that both important people and everyday people alike kept a journal. Lewis Carroll (of my beloved Alice in Wonderland stage) kept meticulous diaries, even though they would one day incriminate him. Virginia Woolfe, the first writer I really understood as a woman’s writer, was an avid journal scribe. Mark Twain was never seen without one, Kurt Cobin rarely seen with his but it existed. It didn’t matter what walk of life, as a young girl I thought that people were supposed to keep diaries and journals.
I’d like to say that I kept up with my journaling through grade school naivety, through high school angst, and even through college busyness. But only some of that is true- I went through spurts of intense writing, where every day was meticulously detailed, “Lunch: tray of fries. Milk. God, why can’t I stop eating fries.” As I got older, details become ideologies ruminated at the end of the day, “How is it possible to know when you are in love, like the very moment?” But the truth is journaling, like writing is hard. And habit-forming, as in, you have to do it and make it a habit or you don’t do it and oops, where is that thing again?
And yet, I own at least seven, unused, neatly wrapped moleskins. Every now and then, I take them out, fondle the unbroken spines (50 Shades of Molekskin anyone?), and wonder if today is the day I will write in one.
I imagine some of my hangups are the same one my students face when asked to do an essay, rough draft, or even a creative writing piece; after all, the same questions they ask plague me. What do I write? How do I start? What if I get it wrong? What is a good entry? How long should it be? Inevitable, I begin to compare anything I might do to the amazing work of others. Like this guy, Kolby Kirk, and his amazing hiking journals. I particularly love how his moleskins are hybrids of writing, mapping, and sketching. I really like his philosophy that journals should be messy, dirty, interactive things that are free from constriction. Like rough drafts, but fun.
And then, a thought happens: how could I use journaling in my classroom as a way to help my students become active journalists? How could I help myself? Where would one begin? How would one start? Could I start? I talk all the time about the value of a rough draft, a good outline, and a working thesis. These are a lot like messy, dirty, interactive moleskins. Maybe this is merit in journaling frequently in class, but how could there be proof without being intrusive? What kind of negotiating would a teacher need?
And then: how do I let go of the part of me that wants to organize, label, and categorize every entry before I even start? How do my students? Do I grade them? How do I grade them if I want them to write freely? Is the act alone enough to warrant a grade?
I almost think with my new project (gamifying the classroom), journaling will become a must- it must become both record book and reflection. Journal prompts are a whole other issue- I have a love/hate relationship with using journal prompts in the classroom. While I completely see the merit in a guided prompt, the non-teacher side of me cringes every time I see or use one. I’m much more likely to use a writing guide, an insert if you will for my students. I really like Mike Shea’s moleskin insert for writers; making one for high school students would be interesting.
The best start might be my own: unwrapping a moleskin of my very own this week and put the untarnished moleskin issue to rest. Stay tuned.