One day, when our children are in their 70’s and have a gaggle of grandchildren gathered around their kitchen tables… at some point, the question will come up––where were you during the Covid Pandemic? You didn’t have to go to school? Was it fun? Were you scared? Did it change your life? Did you plant a garden?
And our children will say, “Wait one second. I have something to show you.” And hopefully they will pull out the little journal that they kept during this crisis.
Whether doodling, drawing, making lists, or writing down their feelings, a journal can accomplish a bunch of things. One, it keeps you in the moment. Two, there is something about writing that can be so soothing and calming and help you express those feelings that you aren’t quite comfortable verbalizing just yet. And third, in this case, the kids will create a historical record.
When I am doing research for a book on history, the first thing I do is look for first person accounts. Whether written by children or adults, the very wealthy or the poor, each account is so important. In my book Rescuing the Declaration of Independence: How We Almost Lost the Words that Built America, I was telling a story I had never even heard before, the story of a lowly clerk who showed enormous courage and gumption by saving the original U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence and other incredibly important documents from the British torches that burned Washington, D.C. to the ground. This man, Stephen Pleasonton, risked his life to do so. Not only did I read his own account of what happened, but I also read other journals of people who fled the city. I wanted a clear description of the chaos, the fear, the stakes.
The same will be true when future writers want to tell the story of this COVID-19 crisis. What was it like? How did we get through it? Those readers and researchers will have a better understanding of what it was like to live through this crisis, by reading what those of us who experienced it had to say. When you talk to young writers about this, let them know that what they are writing will become a primary resource because it’s an eyewitness account! This will bring to life a concept (that’s hard for young people to grasp) and make it relatable!
But for me, my major motivation in keeping a journal right now, is to save my sanity. What my children do with it decades from now is up to them. But I also want them to keep a journal as a way to express themselves, to tell their own story, and to create an artifact they may one day wish to share at that kitchen full of future grandchildren.
To get started, you can make a journal with a stapler and scrap paper. You can type it into your laptop or you can buy a journal you adore.
Then crack them open and get going. Tip: When my boys started their pandemic journals, the first thing I heard was “I don’t know what to write.” My response? That’s an awesome first sentence. This does not have to be perfect. It can be a schedule written out. It can be a running list of things that have changed. It could be a fantasy, about a place they would like to visit in their imaginations. It can be a drawing, a doodle, a tally of the number of days since school was cancelled. This is a “there is no right answer” kind of activity. It is all storytelling and will keep moving their writing skills forward.
And for you grandparents who are not able to see your grandchildren right now, consider putting your journal in letter form. A letter a day of wisdom, fond memories––what a treasure it will be.
Okay, diarists, time to write an entry!
P.S. In just a few weeks, my debut picture book will hit bookstores everywhere. I can’t think of a better moment to introduce you to a brave hero who courageously saved the words that built America. I am talking about the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and more. This man’s TRUE and long forgotten actions inspired me to be brave during a tough time in my life and I hope they’ll inspire you! You can pre-order now. All pre-orders through PRINT: A Bookstore will be entered to win a signed bundle of all four of my books!