Saturday, February 13, 2016

Jenna Kersten: I Am Left Wondering

I firmly believe that we can find the most beautiful moments of wisdom and insight in the minute of the everyday. This sense is something that, ideally, I look for while writing in my notebooks. It is through the process of writing down my thoughts, the beginning snippets of later poems, and quotes that inspire me that I am able to find meaning and significance in the small events that have come to make up my life.


I keep two main notebooks, as shown above. One is my daily notebook. A decidedly solid, hardcover journal, it functions as a brain-dump of sorts, as the site of lists, notes from lectures, reflections from retreats and silly, largely irrelevant couplets. The other notebook acts as my travel notebook because it has a softcover, a pocket in the back to store things I want to save, and is a bit more flexible. I use it to chronicle the moments that occur while travelling, and ultimately will tape ticket stubs, boarding passes, and receipts to the pages, turning the notebook into an informal scrapbook for the hopelessly lazy college student. 


The memories that I tape into my notebooks, like those ticket stubs, are my favorite parts about them. I like writing on scraps of paper hastily found in the moment and this system of writing and taping lets me keep it organized and protected. Sometimes these are snippets of thoughts written in the corner of a playbill or event programme. Other times, these are direct quotes or lessons from people I interact with. 

This past summer, most of these thoughts came from my interactions working with the Franciscan Sisters of Saint Joseph, an order of Catholic sisters who live in a convent not far from my house. I worked at the convent in the kitchen, learning that meaning can be found in the little moments that time would have us forget, like the following tidbits that the sisters shared with me over the summer.

I would usually spend the beginning of each shift restocking snacks and beverages near the buffet line in the dining room. Because of the sheer number of cans of soda and little Lorna Doone packages that I would need to replenish for the sisters, I would make a list on a piece of scrap paper of these things that I would stow away in the pocket of my work apron. On these wrinkled pages about the size of an index card, I would also jot down quotes and lessons from the sisters and general thoughts I’d have while working. 


By preserving these small moments in my notebooks, and journaling through my responses to them, I am better able to find and reflect on the meaning that each day provides, whether that meaning comes from my travels or from the convent. With each new insight, I am left wondering what my notebooks will teach me next.

I have one notebooking strategy that I use for days when it seems that I have nothing to say. To spark some added creativity, I've found that it is quite helpful to leave the bookmark of the journal on the page of the previous day's writing. Little reminders that I have, in fact, written before can prompt more thoughts as I continue to journal. 

What have your notebooks taught you? 


Jenna Kersten grew up in Hamburg, NY and is a former fellow with the WNY Young Writers Studio. She is currently in college, pursuing a degree in English, international studies, and German language, and hopes to use writing to promote positive social change. Visit her online at www.jennakersten.wordpress.com


Sharing Our Notebooks will give away one copy of Jenna's favorite book about writing, Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD: SOME INSTRUCTIONS ON WRITING AND LIFE.  Please leave a comment, including a way of contacting you should you win, by Sunday, March 6, to be entered into the drawing.

Please know that Sharing Our Notebooks welcomes all kinds of notebook keepers - of any age and interest - to open up their pages and share their process.  At the present time, I am accepting all notebook entries and am especially hoping to receive some entries from boys and men who keep any kind of notebooks.  If you are interested in writing in this space, please contact me, Amy, directly.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

13 comments:

  1. I am so glad that I stumbled upon this site, because I definitely need to find a new and creative way to use notebooks, and I love your ideas, Jenna--thank you! Since you're studying German, I'll say, Vielen Dank :)! (I own Bird by Bird, so no need to enter me in the drawing). It's a great book!

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  2. What a lovely idea...a travel notebook!

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  3. Such wonderful ideas! Thank you!

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  4. Jenna! What a treat it is to read about the process that fueled the wonderful posts you've been sharing on your blog. I miss you so, and I continue to marvel at the young woman and influential writer you are becoming. So proud of you. xo

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  5. Thanks for sharing, Jenna. I struggle to find my mojo with journaling...maybe thinking more along the lines of scrapbook may be helpful.

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  6. Jenna, your thoughts are beautifully written and will certainly give me something to think about on those "I'm stuck" days! Thanks for sharing.

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  7. Thanks for sharing. I have a fascination with aprons and my mind went to writing about the items stored in your work apron as soon as I read your post. Yes, even lists count!

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  8. I've never glued them into my journal, but all those little bits of paper with momentary notes in them go into our family diary--another sort of notebook. They provide the daily context that sometimes gets lost when we "prepare" our writing for public consumption, and in the preparation we sometimes lose something, I think. I'd love to win Bird by Bird for my daughter's upcoming birdday I mean birthday. : ) heidi dot mordhorst dot poet (at) g mail dot com. Thanks Jenna and Amy!

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  9. I so appreciate the opportunity to see into others' notebooking lives. It inspires me! Thank you

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  10. I LOVE your apron notes. I never would have thought about saving them. Such a wonderful and inspiring post! Off to check all my pockets now...

    (dandsherrmann@gmail.com)

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  11. I am inspired! I have been wanting to take time to jot things down while walking through life and have been energized to do it no! (t.sundstrom12@gmail.com)

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  12. I am inspired! I have been wanting to take time to jot things down while walking through life and have been energized to do it no! (t.sundstrom12@gmail.com)

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  13. The statement of purpose editing is quite important for the students who don't write properly. This is best way to learn about writing.

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