Let me start by giving the writer and teacher Donald Murray props for introducing me to the Daybook in his fantastic research for writing and teaching, Write to Learn. Along with Stephen King’s On Writing, Murray’s book was a text that caused me to think being a writer was something I could actually accomplish. For me, the daybook (think black and white Mead composition notebook) is something I use day-to-day in my life and entice (force?) my students to use during the length of the time we work together. What I love about the daybook is that it enables me to capture many of the intellectual seeds that would otherwise drift into my thinking and then go scattering off into oblivion.
I’m sure a lot of ideas still come and go, but with the daybook, I’m able snag at least a couple and jot them down for later use. Many of my ideas (especially for teaching, writing, and reading) come while I’m working on something else: I’m reading student work and I’ve got an idea for next semester or something I need to share with the class. I’m reading a story and I have an idea for a story of my own or a lesson for class or something I want to tell my wife. Pre-daybook, the idea would come and go and be forgotten. With the daybook, it’s down on paper fastened to a place where I can come back to it and take action.
As for Love on the Big Screen and Murray’s daybook, one day while writing with my students, I wrote the following sentence: “Everything Zuke knew about love he got from the movies.” That was the seed that led to Love on the Big Screen. Of course there is a lot of me in this book, but it became an act of the imagination as soon as I accepted the mental premise that Zuke did things because of movies he’d seen. That became a hook that might sell a book and something that would be a great pleasure for me to write. I’m thinking of two immediate reasons: (A) I could revisit all those movies I loved as a teenager and (B) once I made the decision to set it at a fictionalized Olivet Nazarene, I got to use my college experiences as an imaginative catalyst for a plot and characters that caused me to recall many moments I’d long forgotten. The moments go through a sort of truth to fiction converter once I give them to Zuke’s story and the controlling premise that he does things because of the movies he’s seen. For myself, back when I was making lots of love mistakes, I certainly had an overly romanticized view of love (who doesn’t?) and I was unconscious of all the influences (media and others) that had helped shaped my romantic paradigm. In fact, it wasn’t until I wrote the book that I realized what a number films such as Say Anything, Dead Poets Society, Sixteen Candles, and When Harry Met Sally did to my expectations for romance.