Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What Do You Notice? by Tammy Breitweiser

What we notice and our reflections on them are the keys that open the secret society we belong to as writers.

What I notice finds its way into my many notebooks. These sparks are written as observations, conversations,  or connections my own brain makes which are uniquely mine. To capture these keys and then use them to unlock my stories is a valuable and powerful tool in my writing life. 

This behavior is shared with students as well so they can capture their own sparks into their notebooks to impact their writing.

Whenever I get the feeling to write something down I do and I share this sentiment with students. Often when working with young writers I will write down something they say as a connection or observation to use myself later. When I am away from my notebook I make notes in my phone and then transcribe them later or add them to my Google Doc “Notes and Musings”. This DOC is essentially a notebook in digital form.

I have cultivated ideas from notebooks from years ago and from yesterday. You never know when a piece will need some unlocking and one of these sparks are perfect to move the writing along where it needs to go. The right keys in writing take us to the place for our readers to understand the thinking in the authors head.

My writer's notebooks are the treasure chests that collect the jewels and sparkle of a story I am writing.  These sparks are keys that open up the doorways to the writing. They are the beginnings that unlock the secrets to the story, poem, blog post, or essay I am writing. They help me to unlock my own thoughts so it is possible to reach my readers.

Sparks allow my mind to open a doorway and walk down a path that I didn't think of before especially when I am stuck with the piece I am writing.

Key questions that noticings can unlock are:

  • Where do I want the story to go next? 
  • What is the next right thing?
  • What will allow me to open up the story in a whole new way?

These snippets allow freedom of thought that we didn’t think possible when starting with the blank page. Sparks open doorways to new writer status. A doorway that leads to stairs that can strengthen the relationship between author and reader. As the author, I hand off the key of understanding to the reader.

Notebooks are essential to writing which means they are essential for my students!

Tammy L. Breitweiser is a curriculum coach in Northwest Indiana where she is currently dedicated to impacting student achievement in grades 7 and 8. With more than 22 years of experience, she is a reading advocate who believes in the reading and writing connection. She is working a collection of short stories and poems and a book about teaching writing.  You can connect with Tammy on Twitter (@tlbreit) or through her blog Tammy’s Reading/Writing Life:  https://tammysreadinglife.wordpress.com/


  1. I love this post, Tammy!

    "Key questions that noticings can unlock are:
    Where do I want the story to go next?
    What is the next right thing?
    What will allow me to open up the story in a whole new way?"

    I am re-discovering the power of notebooks and your guiding questions are perfect.

  2. Thank you! I am glad you found it helpful


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