Public and Private Writing

Today, on the morning of this second day of the new year and the last day of winter break, I’m drawn to write. This is nothing new. Writing is a big part of who I am. It always has been. I imagine it always will be.

Like many other writers, as I contemplate my thoughts and capture words that pass through me in this creative process, I recognize that different kinds of writing serve different¬†purposes in my life and that the audience for whom I write changes largely depending on the topic. I have public writing — this blog is an example, and everything I write on a regular basis for work. Social media has also filled in for some of that public “sharing” and expressing of ideas as well.

I also have private writing — usually it’s handwritten, sometimes typed. It’s writing that helps me process ideas, navigate challenges, and it’s a raw record of my journey. It’s writing that I both intend to keep private, but at the same time hope¬†will eventually be for others to read. ¬†Often I wish to share these ideas out immediately because I can write about things that are hard for me to speak of, the challenges I am working though, disappointments that I face, what some people might even call hardships. In a way it would be so much easier for me to share out these experiences in real time so that friends and family can know why I may not call as often as¬†I want to or why I am not as social as I’d like to be. Perhaps it’s my nature (as an introvert), or perhaps I’m socially conditioned, either way I don’t want to burden anyone with my troubles. So that writing all stays private.

The same has been true of my most celebrated and exciting moments in my life. I’ve kept many of them private as well. I think in the same way I don’t want to bother or burden anyone with troubles, I also don’t want to brag or boast.

The thing is, as a reader I know I benefit greatly when others share their experiences through tough times, and I love to read about celebrations and expressions of joy. I read through these accounts and they help me put my own experiences into perspective; they give my ideas for how to address my own circumstances and opportunities. I know in my heart that this kind of raw, experiential writing is the most powerful writing of all. It’s something that my public writing¬†has been lacking, and I’m afraid it’s been holding me back from becoming the writer that I’m meant to be.

This blog post itself, about public and private writing, feels very personal, very private to me. It makes me wonder if our public and private writing is merely an extension of our public and private selves, and if these are fixed or fluid.

Do we as writers, as artists, ultimately need to merge these two selves? Can we be successful in our craft if we keep them apart?

A dear friend recently shared with me that she wanted to be more proactive in this new year with accomplishing the goals she’s set for herself and asked me for advice for how to do it. I was taken aback a bit, because¬†it’s honestly something I think I need work on myself (and something I write, privately, about quite often). After reflecting¬†on her request, I realized that I¬†may appear proactive and productive to others because of the¬†public writing that I share. There is, however, so much more that I’d like to do and accomplish, so much that¬†I’ve kept safely guarded¬†in my private writing.

While I can’t make any promises, and this is not a resolution, I am going to try to be more mindful and intentional this year about my writing practice. I will¬†try to push myself out of comfort zone and tackle projects that I might have shied away from before. They may not all make it out to the “public” just yet, but I am going to work on better merging these two sides of my writing process in hopes of creating more meaningful and authentic work.

Happy new year and happy writing.




Pen holders from Fenice

At the end of last year (for the last 100 days to be exact), I paid extra FullSizeRender.jpgattention to the material “things” in my life that brought me happiness (all the while being very¬†careful to get rid of anything that didn’t directly bring me happiness) and documented those things for¬†the #100HappyDays project.

The exercise was a great opportunity to reflect on the things around me — literally — and helped me to realize why¬†it was that certain “things” were bringing me joy.

There are clear patterns in the photographs¬†that I took¬†for the project.¬†Not surprisingly,¬†most of the “things” I recorded were either:¬† a gift from a loved one, a memento¬†of a trip or a special event, something associated with relaxation or eliminating stress, or something directly connected¬†to a creative task.

These pen holders from Fenice fit right in with all of those things I recorded for the #100 HappyDays project. They are a perfect example of how a little “thing” can bring much joy.

IMG_7941These tiny, magnetic pieces of leather are designed to hold a pen, be used as a bookmark, or both.

They work great with both books and journals. They adhere to the books with magnets, so they are removable; they can be moved around to any place in the book without damaging the book and be moved from one book to the next. They make an excellent gift for anyone who likes to have a pen or pencil handy while they read!

The only trouble I found is that these products were difficult to¬†obtain¬†here in the US. I searched online and in person in many retailers, but couldn’t find anything like them.¬†(We were eventually able to find someone selling them on Amazon, but since they came from¬†Korea it took a while for them to be shipped here,¬†and there were also high fees for international processing.)

I’d love to find someone here in the US who sells these products or offers something similar. In the meantime, I am also open to ways we can make something similar on our own. Maybe sewing thin magnets into fabric sleeves or thick ribbons, starching them for rigidity and durability? If you have any suggestions, please let me know!


Just as I was about to start my List Journal…

20. Harley and Jane Travel Journal World Cup
This list journal was found on the blog Harley & Jane. (click on photo to visit and learn more about their site)

I’ve always been inclined to make lists. They keep me organized, they help me remember, and I believe¬†that ideas written in list form¬†elicit a different¬†momentum, a different trajectory than traditional prose.

Often, I find myself¬†listing things in journals, things I will do, things I did, things to remember, etc. — and as a teacher I’ve used listing with my students for many different writing tasks — but I have never tried an entire journal of just lists. I’ve come across a few examples of really beautiful, mixed media list journals (see the picture above as an example!) and was about to start one myself, but then I discovered The List App. Suddenly, I was potentially connected with an entire social network of other people listing, too!¬†I figured that this was more than a coincidence, and so I readied myself to sign up for the¬†The List App and get to work on¬†creating my List Journal.

Then, I stopped myself. I already use quite a bit of social media already (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, LinkedIn). I really had to think carefully and decide if I wanted to begin using another social media tool, which led me to thinking about the many other types of tools I use and have used over the years to journal in general. And that thinking has turned into this blog post.

Continue reading

Day 20 of CampNaNoWriMo and still at 14,342 words

I came across this on Pinterest and it reminded me of this project.

It’s Day 20¬†and my novel is currently¬†14,342 words. You might think that I would be¬†frustrated or discouraged with my progress. You might think that I should be worried.

I am not.

I actually still feel pretty good about it.

My novel has taken a few turns since I started to draft. I recognize this as a good thing. The characters are telling me where to go, not the other way around. It’s their story. I am following their lead. It is all coming together.

Instead of spending the last few days drafting, as I had intended, I’ve been reorganizing. I’ve been adjusting some of the plot lines and changing the nature of some of the relationships. A few new characters have presented themselves in the process.

The novel is already a different novel than the one I set out to write at the beginning of the month. This one is better. It’s stronger. It’s on its way.


Day 2 – 7,612 words

This idea is now officially a work in progress!Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 4.48.57 PM

(I’m not so sure how much sense these few thousand words make just yet, but they’re there, all in one document, in some kind of an order. They’re a beginning.)

As I promised myself, I’m not doing any editing work until I’ve¬†finished writing the entire draft. There will be no second guessing character names. There will be no wondering if certain paragraphs are really necessary. There will no looking back, whatsoever.

42,388 WORDS TO GO
Looking forward — all the way to the end of the goal — is, well, kind of daunting.¬†I know that the momentum of the first two days isn’t likely to continue throughout the month, but it is still a really good start. I like this idea and the way it is forming; I like the characters that are emerging. I feel good about this project.

And tomorrow is another day.

How is your writing going? Any tips or suggestions for this determined writer?


Don’t forget to write! Going to summer camp at CampNaNoWriMo

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 8.36.04 PM
Look on the bright side; there’s nowhere to go from here but closer to the goal!

I’ve tried this challenge of writing a novel in one month a few times before. Each of those times, I have been unsuccessful. But hey, nothing says “hopeless optimist” like dusting yourself off and trying again, right? All jokes¬†aside, I know that successfully completing this challenge is possible and it is really going to be about¬†applying the¬†growth mindset.

I’ve got this.

I feel good about this time.

This time is already off to a different and¬†promising¬†start. I’ve tried NaNoWriMo before during November, not during¬†the summer.¬†So this is actually my first time as a CampNaNoWriMo camper.

Like any good camper, I am getting ready. I’ve completed my registration…and I’m looking forward to meeting my cabin-mates soon! Having a¬†support group of other writers¬†will be something new this time around. I have already thought about the project that I want to work on. It’s one that I’ve¬†been thinking about for a while, but haven’t started writing yet;¬†it’s perfect for this challenge. I’ve even gone ahead and set up the donation page to help raise funds for the organization.

And like a true camper, I will be writing letters home about my stay. I’ll share these letters about¬†my novel progress here on the blog. It will help keep me accountable for finishing.

Okay. I know what you might be thinking. You don’t have to scroll far through old posts on this blog to see previous attempts at finishing this challenge and keeping myself accountable, but I won’t let those experiences¬†deter me. It’s okay. Not succeeding at the challenge before just means that I’ve already learned a few strategies to help me win it this time. (There’s that growth mindset again.) Those previous attempts have simply helped me to understand the challenge better and better understand what I need to do to complete it.

This time around:

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 8.35.52 PM
1600 words a day is going to be a piece of cake. ūüėČ

1) I will write first thing in the morning – When I’ve tried this challenge before, I waited until later in the day, after work, after all my other responsibilities were finished to sit down and write. Not this time. This time the writing comes first.

2) I won’t be picky about my writing tools – Sometimes the best ideas come to us when we aren’t planning to write. When these ideas come, I’m not going to wait until I am seated at the computer to work on them. I will write them down in my notebook, on a back of an envelope, a napkin, or my own hand if I have to. I’m not going to let any ideas escape this time.

3) I will leave the editing for later – It’s hard for me not to go back and revise my work as I go. I know this really slowed me down a lot in the past. This time, I am not going to let myself even look back at what I’ve written until the whole thing is finished. (See point #4 for more explanation.)

4) I will use my outline – To write a full novel in one month’s time, it takes a lot of discipline. I’ve tried it before without an outline and it was just not a good idea. The outline will keep me on track and make sure that there is always something to write about. Most importantly,¬†I will have the¬†outline to refer back to instead of ¬†needing to look through sections of previous writing — and won’t be¬†tempted to revise until it is time.

Wish me luck!

And don’t forget to write!


We will figure it out together. #WWFIOT

For the last nine¬†years or so, I‚Äôve been contributing to one blog or another. ¬†(Nine years!? That’s almost a decade! Where has the time gone?)¬†The very first blog I kept¬†was started by a colleague (Thanks, Tom!) for me to use with my students, others I‚Äôve started myself for public consumption, and there are others that I‚Äôve written posts for and contributed to from afar. ¬†(This blog was my second one. After starting the first blog with my students, I tried my hand at blogging about things other than what my students and I were doing in class. It was fun. This blog, in particular, challenged me to write in a variety of ways and on a variety of topics, and “put myself out there” as a writer — an aspect of my writing that I am still trying to improve upon today. I always considered this blog my “writer’s notebook” that I was willing to share¬†with anyone who might be interested in reading it.)

A found poem written by one of my students: light bulbs / could / think the same way as everything / could

Without getting into all of the psychology behind the concept of blogging — which would be material for an entire publication in and of itself (for example, I know that I absolutely wrote some blog posts that I never would have written if I didn‚Äôt have the urgency of a deadline or of a waiting audience prompting me forward) — blogs have become part of our world and will certainly remain so for a long while to come. Blogs are our opportunity as writers (otherwise¬†known simply as thinkers) to put out ideas into the world, with only ourselves as editors. The posts often contain our purest thoughts, our most raw and vulnerable work. Other people may read our ideas. Other people may not even ever see the blog or know it exists. Regardless, at the end of the day, an idea posted to a blog is out there in the universe. It‚Äôs floating around, showing up in keyword searches, getting promoted on social media, just doing its thing.

For me, the content of my blog posts have changed as my life has changed.  I’ve questioned how much personal information I should share and when (perhaps holding back more than is always necessary).  I’ve dabbled with a variety of writing styles. I’ve been serious.  I’ve been fun (or, I’ve had fun, at least). It’s been a hodgepodge of producing content whenever the muses demanded it.

Now, I find myself searching for ways to connect it all.  The good, the bad, the ugly, the what was thinking when I wrote and posted that?  All of it. It all originated from the same place, so what do I do with it now? Do I revisit the ideas? Do I revise and edit them to make them better? Do I find as many of them and delete them so I can start anew? I don’t know.

What I do know, is that I have been reflecting a lot lately, thinking more and more about each of the posts I‚Äôve written in the past, thinking about my thinking. I‚Äôve remembered many of them nearly word for word, and still there are others that I when I read them now I don‚Äôt even recall having written them. This body of work I‚Äôve created over the last ten years is now screaming out to me for some glue. I’ve been thinking about the process of each individual idea and how they came to be.

All of this reflection¬†has steered me toward a newfound appreciation for the field of psychology and a new graduate program. I’m excited to start new graduate work, studying innovation and creativity, studying why and where ideas originate, and what we can do with all of this innovative thinking.

In particular, 2BFx5AytuVsAAAAldEVYdGRhdGU6Y3JlYXRlADIwMTQtMTAtMjFUMDM6MTQ6NTAtMDc6MDBPKjBrAAAAJXRFWHRkYXRlOm1vZGlmeQAyMDE0LTEwLTE2VDIzOjIxOjQ2LTA3OjAwoct3agAAAABJRU5ErkJggg==I’ve been thinking a lot about the collective contributions to ideas, the butterfly effect of all the seemingly small happenings of seemingly regular moments.

I write about education. I write about New Jersey. Most recently, I‚Äôve been writing about innovation. I don‚Äôt think the answer I’m looking for is as simple as writing¬†about how innovation is impacting education in New Jersey (though that would be a very tidy bundle and something I could certainly do), but I do think there is a connection that needs to be¬†made. Over the years, I‚Äôve also written about my love for books, written book reviews, and shared some life lessons. Writing, in one way or the other, has been a huge part of who I am and a major part of my process, and I know that¬†it will continue to be as my work evolves.

At this point in time, I am not entirely sure where this work is going to go, but more than ever, I know it is going somewhere pretty great. One thing for sure is that it’s bringing me back to this blog, to my public “writer’s notebook” where I can chronicle my new adventures in thought. I’ve felt the pull back here a few times before, but this time feels different. This time feels like it did way back in 2008 when I first started the blog. This time, it feels like home.

If you’re interested in sticking around with me while I embark on this “thought journey,” and share my work, I would be delighted. ¬†Leave a comment, share your ideas. We will figure it out together. ¬†#WWFIOT