About 15 years ago I started taking writing seriously for myself. I had been teaching writing to my students – sort of – for a long time. I assigned and they wrote. I decided I needed to write if I was going to teach writing. (Duh – good idea you think?)
So I signed up to be a part of the Minnesota Writing project – a three-week experience in writing with other teacher/writers and working with writing groups.
It was great. I learned and wrote and listened and wrote. After that I published a couple of articles in educational journals and moved on to writing fiction. I had a great idea I thought and quickly wrote what I was thinking was an intermediate picture book. I was so pleased with it and myself. I was writing and I thought I was good. I showed it to a few people with little to no comment from them. A bad sign. (My writing group had fallen away – well really moved away by then so I was a writer in free fall without a net and no real feedback.)
I let teaching get in the way and for the next few years – well lots of years. I let this piece and my writing sit. Always thinking it was a great story.
After working in administration I am now back in the classroom teaching writing and writing again myself. This summer I pulled out that “wonderful” story and was surprised. OMG – it was a story but it had no heart, the characters were flat, the beginning did not grab you, I was telling not showing – I won’t go on. It was bad! Years of reading and listening to writers taught me something about my writing.
So here is what I learned again that I will take into my teaching this fall and into my own writing practice –
- Writers need a writers group to help them see what they can not see
- Writers need a mentor – a writer who knows just a wee bit more or a lot more to guide them to the next step (teachers are needed)
- Stories are best when set aside for a short time (ok maybe not 10 years) then return to with fresh eyes and new learning
- Writers need to read, read, read
- Writers need to write, write, write
- Writers should hold on to stories no matter how bad – they are great beginnings for new work when we are ready to try again.
I am now re working that funny little story and excited to see where the characters will take me and looking for the heart of the story. It is there – it needed time to develop and I needed time to grow just like my students.
And I now know and understand I need to give my students time to be real writers as well! What writing lessons have you learned this summer that you will share with your students?