How to Keep a Nature Journal as a Writer

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” 

Mary Oliver

The perfect tool for a writer

As the quote above states, a writer must pay attention. A positive side effect of doing just that is that is almost impossible not to learn new things on the way.

When I go for a walk I will notice a flower I don’t know the name of and if I heed the advice of the quote I will ask about the name or look it up. The same goes for the flowers in my garden. Lately, I learned the name of mullein and loosestrife. Both yellow wildflowers.

But as Mary Oliver also says

Attention without feeling is only a report.

Mary Oliver

So when I register the flower in my nature journal I make the sketching of it almost like a way of meditating. By sketching the flower I spend time with it in a present state and it astonishes me with its beauty and perseverance. This is the second step in this third and final quote by Mary Oliver.

Pay attention. 
Be astonished. 
Tell about it.” 

Mary Oliver

But how do I tell about it? I turn to a second author for this part.

Gertrude Stein who said a rose is a rose is a rose explained it herself like this:

“When I said. A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. And then later made that into a ring I made poetry and what did I do I caressed completely caressed and addressed a noun.”

Gertrude Stein, Lectures in America

So the same measures I use when going for a walk namely pay attention and be astonished is the same measures with which to choose the words I tell a story. Put a flower in your story and make it stand out in words as beautiful as it does in nature.

3 Ways to keep a nature journal

A nature journal is a collection of all that you see in nature but I want to focus on flowers for my nature journal. I love to watch the roadside flowers on my daily walk especially the red poppies. And I am just learning the names of wildflowers in my garden.

My Mother kept a herbarium but I found the flowers much too delicate to work with and prefer to draw or paint them in a sketchbook.

I am not very patient so even though I enjoy updating my nature journal I also sometimes skip the easy way and make it more of a scrapbook/junk journal for example by printing out quotes or images that I think would fit nicely on to the page. Recently I made a junk journal out of a used Moleskine garden journal.

  • Choose the form of your nature journal


  • Botanical Sketchbook

  • Junk Journal

If you go for the junk journal I made this printable with quotes used in this post.

Now for the writing part

Whichever way you prefer to go accompany the visuals with some text. Here are three suggestions.

  • 1

    Write a poem with as many sensory details as possible. Let the flower be met by someone or something. (The poem I want to write I call The rise of the Roses).

  • 2

    Put it in a story. Mention the flower three times in the story and see if at the end, it plays a significant part or if it stays in the background as part of the setting.

  • 3

    Journal about your day and see if you can recall a childhood memory with that particular flower.

To get started start with this small step.

Action step | Write a list of ten flower names perhaps even twenty. See where it leads you.

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