How a Journal Can Become a Book

Coaching Articles - Essays for coaches

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About six years ago, Jan began journaling about her work. In the following essay she describes the relatively simple process she employed to move through journaling to a finished manuscript.

How a Journal Can Become a Book

Journaling Toward Home:

How a Journal Can Become a Book

by Jan Burkins

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The House by the Sea by Tone Aanderaa

In her book Writing Toward Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way, Georgia Heard gives novice writers a map for reaching their writing homes. For those of us who find writing perpetually irresistible and horrifying, the idea that writing is home offers paradoxical comfort and angst.

When I began literacy coaching, I began writing. I began writing toward the home that represented reflection, processing, comfort, question, and response. I spent tired days with dear teachers, pushing against and standing for, and at the end of the day, writing was every metaphor I needed: the water that carried me, the boat that held me, and the house I walked into. I made this trip every evening, children at my feet, computer across my knees. Writing the reliable transition from school to home, I wrote pages, upon more pages, upon still more pages, until my journal held nearly one hundred.

And one hundred seeming a lot of pages to me then (and still now), I began to imagine that I had ridden home so many times that perhaps someone else would find comfort reading of my journeys. I wondered if I might somehow turn my musings into a book for other literacy coaches, so I began to wrestle with how to make the book happen.

My journaling was disjointed, as journaling is inclined to be, without obvious common currents running through it. There were, nevertheless, some patterns. So I read through the pages of my journal and triple-spaced when the topic shifted. Then I printed out all of the pages, even more than a hundred after much triple-spacing. With scissors, I cut the paragraphs apart along the triple-spaces and sorted sections into stacks that would later become chapters. Within the stacks, I took all the paragraph strips and arranged them in a logical order. Where an idea was missing, I wrote it on a strip of paper and inserted it.

To each of these stacks, I gave generous attention. I cut and pasted the journal, forming each chapter's order, and then cobbled transitions and filled in gaps. Finally, I revised until I saw less and less and less to change. It seemed rather suddenly, even if over two years, that I had a book. I had a book that I had accidently written, even backed into. In the process I had found that writing was both a way to get home as well as home itself. The things that make home "home" are the same things that make writing "home": rituals, time, reflection, persistence, hard work, and love.