On my way to Japan, I wrote about my travel experience, and when I arrived, I posted pictures of my notebook pages. The day after I arrived, I posted more notebook pictures where I had written about my reunion with my son at the airport. At that point, I thought I would do this each day, writing about the events of the prior day, except that I have not been able to keep up with the events, and when I sit to write there is too much to say. Each day has been like a week, and now, on the eve of my departure, I realize that the stories of my week will be the writing of weeks to come.
I have so many pictures. I will revisit the events they have captured, reviewing the images, and pulling out the moments– bringing them back to life in words.
Yesterday, I made a discovery. Writing takes time, but sometimes there isn’t any. What to do? In the moment, take a little time, not to compose a piece, but to grab the elements for one. I have a piece that is waiting to be assembled. While standing on the platform of the monorail, I jotted a sequence of events. Scrawled really. On two small pages I collected bits of dialogue, and the order of what happened. These are the things I would lose in a week.
As I stood there scribbling phrases and abbreviated words, I imagined Hemingway (one of my favorite writers) doing the same when he was reporting on wars. It struck me as a funny thought. Surely, I had not discovered something new by taking notes of my experience, but it was something I had never thought to do before. Yes, I’ve taken notes. Yes, I’ve written ideas for pieces I’ve written. Yes, I’ve grabbed scraps of paper to write a thought to add to a piece. But, I can’t remember making notes about my life in the moment so that I could later write about that exact slice of my life. Is this what it means to live a writerly life? To plan for future stories in the moment?
In participating in the Slice of Life Challenge, I have observed my world differently. Throughout my day, I find myself thinking, This is a slice; I could write about this today. Occasionally, I have jotted a phrase to hold onto the idea. But, I have never taken notes in the moment so that the ideas would be fresher when I sit to write. I know that writers have done this for as long as there have been writers. And yet, I don’t think I ever have. But, wearing the garb of a writer placed me in a different position. My need caused me to invent a new way of being a writer of my experience. I learned a new trick because I could not write in that moment, but I wanted to be able to write in the future about that moment. So, I took notes about myself! It still strikes me as a funny, and even silly discovery, but I know that I have uncovered a new truth of writing and writers.
And, as absurd as it seems to be “writing aloud” what will surely be an obvious idea to other writers, I feel that I cannot be alone in this realization. If nothing else, I know that this will inform my teaching in a new way. I imagine having pocket notebooks for all my students now. A coil ring holding a pen inside. Setting aside days at the beginning of the year for modeling taking notes about our own lives, in the moment. Stopping and jotting as soon as ideas come to us. Demonstrating the furious writing that comes from wanting to quickly gather thoughts when they happen.
It is the eve of my departure from Japan. I will live like a writer today, as I have all the days of this trip, but on the last one, I will look for moments, I will take pictures, AND I will take notes. I will plan for slices of life to be written.
(Look for a piece about my monorail experience in a future slice! It’s just waiting to be assembled.)