Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Promise of a Blank Notebook

I started a new notebook last week while I was on my EMWP Gone Rogue writing marathon, and this poem was my first entry. 

The Mess is Greater Than The Sum of its Parts

New notebooks
Two new notebooks ready to be filled with The Mess
There's a dirty little secret
among English teachers
that we don't like to share
with the world.
OK, maybe that's not true.
It's not so dirty and we
share it all the time.

We love notebooks.
We have excessive amounts of them.
More than we could possibly fill
in one lifetime.

But we prefer them

instead of
lived in.

A blank notebook represents
promise and potential --
of all the brilliant thoughts
just waiting to pour forth
from our ample minds.

But a written-in notebook represents
&*@# ups
They shout at us,

And so
we tend to like
the idea
of a filling a notebook
but not
the execution of it.

Writing in a notebook
is an act of
faith and bravery.
It is a place where we must
face our inadequacies
head on
and then challenge them.
It is a place for
discomfort and discombobulation.

And so we admire our blank notebooks
sitting in our closets
with no intention of actually
filling them with our
messy ramblings.
Even though we force
our students to write in one

So dear teachers,
just remember this:
When you
struggle and agonize
over the words you
put on the page,
question your own abilities
and make excuses that
you're just too busy
to write today --
just imagine
what your students
must be feeling.


Slice of Life is brought to you by Two Writing Teachers


  1. OMG. You certainly nailed it. I have more notebooks than I need and I am always hesitant to start writing in each. Well done!

  2. Perfect. I've been thinking these same thoughts as I work away at my computer but make my own children write an entry each day this summer. I need to crack open my blank journal and write in it so I can feel that pain that they feel.

  3. Such an interesting take on the blank notebooks. I never thought of them as markers of our failures or insecurities. I have always been such a picky journaler. I like sketchbooks, but so often people give me notebook--gilded, lined, illustrated, pocket-sized, or double-wide-- they often end up soldiered on the shelf.

  4. Beth, I love the poem and your subject is one of my favorites...notebooks! I LOVE them. I don't feel the same way, though. I LOVE writing in my notebooks. I LOVE the filled pages with words and stories from life. I do adore new notebooks too...but I must respectfully disagree. I LOVE spending time filling up the pages of my notebooks. Now I'm realizing I'm in the minority. Hmmm, you gave me a great perspective today. Thank you!!!

    1. I for the most part enjoy writing in my notebook too. But there's also that part of me (the part of me that wrote the poem) that prefers the promise and potential to the reality. I'm getting better though. Being part of the Writing Project has helped me with that.