Sunday, March 24, 2019

Dr. Shari Daniels: Whatever It Be

My notebooks are in a constant state of growing and changing, layers of me evolving right alongside them. Early notebooks began as diaries and emotional purging mediums, of which I penned much ink during those high school and college years back in the 1980’s. As my children arrived, snippets of their silliness and precious moments I didn’t want to forget were peppered between entries that contained my hopes and dreams as a young mother and wife. I realized early on that my notebook housed what was close to my heart.

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Some twenty years later, Julie Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, would prompt a shift in my notebook writing, and morning pages were born. As a ritual, each morning still, three pages of whatever shows up finds its way to the notebook with the intention to hear the whispers of my soul and receive guidance for the day. I learned to recognize patterns of whining and emotional drama and discovered that writing in my notebook could pull me out of the sludge; sometimes an anchor, sometimes a buoy. And: what I put my attention towards shaped my life.

Later yet, as a newly minted literacy coach being trained at OSU, I was introduced to Ralph Fletcher, Georgia Heard, and Donald Graves, and a new layer of transformation took place. The concept that a notebook is a treasure box housing precious gems, random threads, and collectables to one day grow into something more: a story, a poem, or a book, was my new mantra. Now I was not just writing for myself, but with the possibility that I could go shopping in my notebook for any topic that calls to me, play with it, write deeper into and around it or reshape it for the public. 

I turned into a "story-catcher," living wide awake for any remnant to be safeguarded in the notebook: an image, dialogue of another (especially my husband - the sharp witted man he is), a random wonder or text message. The world became fodder for my notebook.

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In the last 5-10 years, my notebooks evolved once again, as they screamed for creativity and meaning. The work of Lynda Barry, Lisa Swerling, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, Leah O’Donnel, and Sunni Brown,  Austin Kleon, dozens of children’s authors and Amy of course, inspire the poetry and drawings, doodles and silliness that now pervades my notebooks. I’ve added art journaling, Instagram images, and visual storytelling to be more playful in this space. Mary Oliver’s words to “Pay Attention ~ Be Astonished ~ and Tell About It” feed purpose into my devotion to adding more ink on the page. In a world of “un-noticers”, being one who “makes alertness a hidden discipline of familiarity” (as David Whyte words depict) feels like a special gift I have been granted. 

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My notebooks, for me, and for others I’ve spoken to, have led me to a discovery and documentation of who I am. Following the threads of which I collect, to a larger meaning unearths the hidden treasures of which I learn from and see new perspectives. Words revealed are guidance, often medicine for healing, and quite frankly, just a sweet bliss upon the surprise of the next line. Once that essence is tasted and experienced, it becomes a necessary nourishment for the feeding of my soul.

Invitation (I love “invitations” ~ borrowing the word from Donald Graves and Julia Cameron):

Writing has taught me to live with a sense of presence and awareness of anything that aspires or inspires, creates a sense of wonder, and for what surprises me, shocks me, and disturbs the core of my being. Cultivating a new lens for "seeing" is the first habit of mind for living this writerly life.

So, listen to a podcast for words that abduct you, snap the photo of a tweet that calls your name and Paparang it (I'm in love with this new little gadget I bought myself), writing from it to see where it takes you, capture a sentence overheard from your children, or learn to doodle people and make speech bubbles as the thoughts and words.  Whatever it be, capture it.  Be a witness to the threads of stories around you.

If you are just beginning to cultivate a sense of awareness and need a scaffold, I’ve revised Lynda Barry’s tool for paying attention and found it is a good “starter” in teaching the eyes and ears what to look for. Each snippet saved can later be lifted to explore your way into a story to find meaning or some Universal Truth. It’s a lovely strategy in which the only requirement is that you put down your phone and live wide awake in this world.

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Because, the world is waiting for you. Our lives will pass us by and we will wonder how we spent our days and who we were. Pull out the net and do some capturing of all those sweet butterflies.

Thank you so much to Amy for inviting me to share my notebooks. Digging into my neglected blogging space to share past scribbles with you has made me realize how much I miss blogging and a writing community.  New nudges are being stirred to venture down some untraveled paths.

Shari 😊

Dr. Shari Daniels has taught for 25 years in a variety of roles: kindergarten teacher, first grade teacher, third grade teacher, and literacy coach. After literacy coach training at OSU, she felt a calling to graduate school and earned her PhD in Teaching and Learning. Currently, she is an assistant professor teaching preservice teachers at the University of Minnesota in Crookston. Shari is mother of four amazing children who are all following their callings in the world of adulting, grandma to Grayson, who is 2 and 1/2, with a sibling on the way, and wife to her high school sweetheart of 30 years. She hopes to one day live out on a plot of land in the country, with a couple small writing shacks scattered about and maybe raise llamas. She will probably will wear purple.

Sharing Our Notebooks is offering a giveaway of a book Shari recommends - POEMCRAZY by Susan G. Wooldridge - for a reader of this post. Please leave a comment by 11:59pm on Sunday, April 7 to be entered into this random drawing.  Please be sure to leave a way to contact you as part of your comment.

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 more 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.


  1. Wow. Three pages every morning. Maybe when I'm beyond the day job. Or maybe if I modify that to make it three pages every day! I have some Lynda Barry ready for summer play, and Austin Kleon is one of my favorites, too.

    Here's my question. I've got shelves and shelves of notebooks, too. What is your process for re-reading/mining them after they've been shelved?

    Thanks for taking time to share your notebooks here! Thanks, Amy, for another great spotlight!

  2. I used to writer Morning Pages, but lately with my husband's work schedule changing every few days, I've had a hard time getting back into a routine. As Mary Lee mentioned above, I have many filled notebooks on my shelf. When I reread them, I notice a lot of the same themes run through them!

  3. I recently met with my writing group and we talked about a friend who burned all her notebooks before she died. I don't know if I could do that, but I do understand how all of the daily writing can be so personal. I've been doing more art journaling lately, saving tidbits of daily life and making a monthly heart map. Thanks for sharing your process.

  4. What an awesome post! Thank you for sharing your process and all the helpful info and links! I'm a teacher, and Amy's site, books, and social media posts are our inspiration. This year we started using sketchnotes and doodles more, and they are so much fun, even to those (like myself) without artistic abilities. :-) I can't wait to share your examples and pics with my students! Thank you so much again for sharing! Keep up the amazing work - you rock!
    tarafarah7 (at) gmail (dot) com
    Twitter: @tarafarah7

  5. That was a powerful look into the ever-evolving life of a writer. I felt validated when realizing I'm not the only one to frequently change my ways of expressing myself. Yet, I was also inspired to participate in a more frequent, chaotic look at my life and what inspires me... and to CAPTURE IT! I gathered several snippets from this post alone. I will need to revisit it a couple times to collect and record a few more messages that speak to my soul. Thank you!

  6. You've described much of my own notebook keeping, Shari, giving a nod to all those who inspired all through the years. When I taught, I was also inspired by the creativity of my students and now retired, I miss seeing their own collections, but now I have the grandchildren, new eyes! Thanks for sharing your life with notebooks. Don't put me in the drawing, Amy, I have the book!

  7. Same as Linda, no need to enter me in the drawing.I also have the book and keep promising myself to delve into it again soon. Love these words from your post: "the world is waiting for you. Our lives will pass us by and we will wonder how we spent our days and who we were. Pull out the net and do some capturing of all those sweet butterflies." Most of my writing is on my blog, but I need to do more notebook writing. You've inspired me. And your puppy is precious!

  8. How have I missed this blog?! This post alone has SO many treasures in it. I loved reading this post and could identify with so many things that the author wrote about.


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