Nearly ten years ago now I was lucky enough to attend two of Kelly Gallagher’s writing seminars here in Spokane. I even got the opportunity to introduce him at the second one, which was put on by WSASCD–not every day that someone gets the honor of introducing his hero.
I learned a lot from Kelly in those two days, but of all that I learned, two things in particular stick out. One, “everybody improves.” Two, “writing is never done; it’s only due.” And while these did immediately resonate with me and impact my practice as a teacher of writers, it has taken years for me to arrive at a place where I feel like I can truly foster and support these notions, and it is largely due to my de-emphasizing grades. It has given me the freedom to focus on learning, to focus on writing in a way that puts process over product, a way that emphasizes growth, not grades.
And so it is with this in mind that I have approached writing this year. And with this first essay I am perpetuating the “due-not-done” process in both deed and name. I am no longer going to call final drafts, “final drafts.” I am going to call them “due drafts.” Along with that, I also try to change the mindsets of my young writers by sharing the following.
Our writing is not a home in which we dwell; it is a vehicle in which we move. It is a construct. It is a creation. And as such, it is an investment. And that investment places heavy demands on us, both intellectually and emotionally, giving it a personal quality that transcends much of the work we do in school. But it is only a construct, only a creation in the end. It is only writing, not the writer. Not us. It is a temporary vessel, a skin we shed as we learn and grow from each piece we write–a metamorphosis. We write. We learn. We grow.
In the end, I tell them, that their writing doesn’t matter; they, the writers, matter. And so I seek to prove that in deed. I am asking them to do their best until its due. At which time, I will give them feedback on what they have submitted. They will hit, and they will miss. That’s the nature of learning. But, hit or miss, they will not remain, for they have outgrown their latest shell, and they will move on to their next experience better than they began the last. Of course, it will take some time for the kids to adjust and trust. Despite my reassurances, many still find and feel it to be a final draft deadline, but I hope as the cycle spins, kids come to trust in the process, kids come to look beyond the deadline, kids come to look within to find what really matters. Them. The writers.
Here are my requirements for and my example of a “Due Draft.”
Along today’s trail we will…
…begin with Smiles and Frowns
…move our writing down the path.
…reflect in our Journey Journals.
…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme.
Happy Thursday, all.
Do. Reflect. Do Better.