Last week, a five-day power outage prevented me from slicing. And the strangest thing was that I missed writing.
When we talk about identities in our workshops, my perception is always that I am a reader. Writing is what other, more creative, people do. I sympathize with the students who struggle to write. It is hard. I could (can) never meet a deadline and the process was (is) hard. It is no exaggeration that two paragraphs represent (-ed) at least eight hours of cross-outs, starting overs, and doubts. I have never just sat down and whipped anything out.
Back in March, when I started to slice, I still viewed myself as a reading person. My aim, again, was not to Be a Writer, but a teacher who would be in a better position to help student writers. I felt it unfair to ask students to write, if I didn’t.
The daily challenge, which turned into weekly, propelled me to write. Did the process get easier? No. Did my pace ever pick up? No. I would spend so much time on these pieces, l often had to read and comment other postings the next day.
Yet. I began to think of things I could write about as I pursued typical daily activities. I took note of what other slicers did. I started figuring out, in my head, different ways I could write about something. As I read, I wrote down interesting words. And finally, finally. ..when I read, it was easier to notice the craft involved.
The act of writing on a continual basis shifted my perception. I am still a reader but one who has begun to think like a writer. This is what I want to tell my students. It will happen to them, if they keep writing.
As a teacher, I ask students to write all the time. Yet my participation in the Challenge has pushed my thinking about why some students struggle.
External events. Why write when there are huge events happening in your world/home? After reading about and seeing the aftermath of the earthquake in Japan, it didn’t seem like I had anything significant to write about. Every topic or moment seemed inappropriate and empty of meaning. I need to think about helping students see that just the act of writing will help them. It gives them a voice and a tool.
Internal Critic. How do you silence that voice that tells you that you cannot do it? Or how do you overcome the feeling that what you have to say is not that good, not that creative, not that worthy of being written down? What works to overcome these attacks? Writing: even if you don't feel like it. I need to make “Keep writing” as a mantra for my students.
Over-thinking. A cousin to criticism. Over-thinking paralyzes you. It makes you rule out topics, ideas and feelings that make you vulnerable. It says “This far, no further”. Over-thinking creates barriers that restrict your writing. It points out that you shouldn’t write about a topic because someone already did. I think it is only time and practice that will help create a feeling of confidence. What I can do for my students is to make sure they feel they are writing in a safe environment.
Validation. I always make sure to find and share with my students something good in their writing. The Challenge has underscored the value of how these external comments, someone else’s observations, make you feel visible as a writer. As young writers, this encouragement is needed to keep them going.