I spent some time last week flipping through all of the layouts I made in 2012. Partly this was so I could write my 12 Favorite Layouts of 2012 post for my blog; partly it was to sort them all and get them into albums. Mostly it was to revisit the moments I’d captured on layouts, to see what I missed and what I did well and how I might improve.
One thing I noticed was that while I write a lot of journaling, I write what I think is important from the day, moment, or experience. Which is probably all I can do—write my version of the story, but still, it suddenly feels like my kids’ voices are missing from their layouts.
So I decided to set myself a journaling resolution: Find more ways to include my kids’ words, perspectives, ideas, and thoughts in my scrapbook journaling. To accomplish this resolution I’m going to:
1. Pay better attention and write more stuff down.
I used to be really good at this, when my kids were all little. I kept notebooks everywhere and would jot down the funny things they said or did. As they got older, though, I somehow got out of that habit. So I’m going to work harder at getting back into this habit. Facebook and texting should make this easier, and I’ve just signed up for the Oh Life service, which sends you a daily email prompting you to tell that day’s stories. (Plus, as anyone who knows me knows, it’s not like there’s a shortage of notebooks in my life. I’m sort of addicted to buying them!) Capturing more stories when they are fresh—especially when I can remember the gist of conversations—will help me get closer to telling their stories.
Since I don’t do Project Life, I’ve resolved to make a month-in-review layout for at least one of my children each month, using the details I'll be writing down. Here’s the one I made for Kaleb’s December 2012:
2. Ask my kids to write more journaling.
I’m the first to admit that this is tricky. I have three teenagers and none of them are ever excited about more writing assignments. (My youngest is seven, and he’s happy to play along!) It takes a little bit of patience (or a lot, depending on the kid) and a willingness to be persistent. The payoff is that you get an authentic slice of their personalities. Take this layout:
I asked my son Nathan to just write down his ten favorite memories of a recent trip we took to Disneyland. Some of what he wrote surprised me (who would’ve thought that falling down in the parking lot would become a favorite memory?) and some of the things he remembered I’d forgotten. But what I love the most about this is how his writing voice sounds so close to the way he talks.
Make it easier for your kids to write their own journaling by:
- Asking them specific, leading questions. "What did you like best about the beach?" is easier to answer than a vague "write something about our Florida vacation" request.
- Getting them to write about something fairly soon after the experience. On the plane or in the car on the way home from a trip is a great time to ask them to jot down a few details.
- Giving them a suggested length. Top ten lists are good, for example, because they’ll know they only have to come up with ten facts. Or, ask for one paragraph or at least eight sentences or a half page.
- Creating fill-in-the-blank surveys.
- Using a format they’re comfortable with. One of my kids has awful handwriting, but he’ll cooperate better if I ask him to send me an email.
- Copying pieces from longer things they’ve written for school or their blogs. Or, if they are journal keepers, ask them if they will share something with you.
- Avoiding questions that can be answered with "yes" or "no." (This is actually for your benefit, because if they can answer in one word, they will, and then you might find yourself getting just the tiniest bit frustrated...not that that’s ever happened to me!)
3. Find new ways to tell stories.
was inspired by a flex slip (the little blue paper in the layout) my daughter Haley left in the car one day. The flex slip is a print-out the students at her school get each day with their grades; if they don’t have any F’s they can have a longer lunch or do other activities. I thought it told quite a bit of her life at the time—her class schedule, the names of her teachers, her grades. I tossed in a playlist of songs she’d burned for her car and a few random facts about her activities at the time, and it felt like I captured some of her life.
Putting the layout together made me start to think about how objects tell stories. Of course there’s the ephemera of daily life: what do you find in your son’s pockets when you do the laundry? Under your kids’ beds or in their backpacks? But you can also tell the story of an object, like an outline of where a favorite pair of shoes was worn, the history of a beloved soccer ball, a catalog of scratches and dents on a bike.
Some of the other write. click. scrapbook. members also set some journaling resolutions. Aliza’s explained hers:
One of my recent goals is to document stories about my parents. It's always easy to do layouts about my kids, because they are cute, and funny, and mine, and it's easy for me to tell them how much I love them. But at some point I realized that I have lots of stories from the generation before me, that are just as important, and just as much a part of me as my children are.
She shared two layouts that illustrate her resolution:
Her resolution made me think about stories I haven't told yet, about my parents and my husband's and about the things I've learned from them.
Celeste also has a journaling resolution: to forget the who, what, and where and focus more on the why and how, like she does here:
So! Tell us: what are your journaling resolutions and how will you accomplish them? I hope you’ll share!