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.
I am not certain I successfully secured this notion in the minds and hearts of my young writers yesterday. Initially, it was my response to their wide-eyed, stress-induced reactions of learning that I put the narrative essay on the fast track, making it due Monday. I wanted them to understand that I was not looking for a masterpiece. How dare I, were that so? Yet, I think that’s the message, the banner we wave, when we present kids with writing experiences in school. We tend to present the expectation that the only success to be found in the experience is from creating a perfect paper. Perfect. As if. How long does it take to arrive at perfection? How many failed attempts? Is perfect even possible? I write nearly every day. And even in my practiced state, I rarely move toward, much less achieve, the gold standard. Some of my posts are hits. Many are misses. But, hit or miss, I learn and I grow from each and every one. And that’s what I want for my kids, but it is hard for them to see, to understand, to trust. And it is particularly challenging when writing is only 2/5 of our time together. We have to put into perspective what it really takes to become an effective writer and approach it in a way that not only challenges but more importantly supports our young writers. And so, I will continue to work with them, to build trust. In the end, all that I care about is that they grow. All I care about is them. I don’t care about the writing. I care about the writer.
So, today, I will roll up my shirt sleeves and dig into the work with them, helping them grow as writers, getting them ready for the next transport as we move through our year of not simply creating writing, but growing writers.
My writers will consider these questions today as they move forward, questions that stem from our Andrew Stanton TedTalk yesterday.
Am I conveying my message?
Have I made the reader care? (emotionally, intellectually, aesthetically)
Have I made the reader work for his meal? (Stanton suggests that we should give our audience 2+2 to work with instead of 4.)
Am I providing a compelling narrative frame that connects ideas and creates anticipation?
These are challenging questions for kids who generally write one narrative a year. These are challenging questions for writers like Stanton who have written several blockbuster movies for Pixar. Writing is challenging. And like anything that is, there is fantastic fulfillment when we achieve success. But how measure that success is important. I measure it in terms of progress. Is there really any other way to do it fairly in my context? Writers writing. Writers learning. Writers growing. Writers. I care about nothing else.
Along today’s trail we will…
…begin with Smiles and Frowns.
…push ourselves as writers.
…reflect in our Journey Journals.
…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme.
Happy Tuesday, all.
Do. Reflect. Do Better.