Still learning to write

Slice of Life logoThis little slice of life comes up each Tuesday. It helps build the routine of the week. A time that I tell myself I must sit down and write. It is a free write for me. A time to write whatever is floating in my head first thing in the morning on a Tuesday.

In the past this was a late night write after an all to busy day. I wrote while I struggled to stay awake. It was also a time where I had so much to say. Within the classroom walls there is always something or someone who will spark a topic for writing.

Now as I spend less time with students and more time puttering around my house and garden the topics seem to repeat themselves. Yes, I can write about the cleaning up of the garden, the planting of garlic and horseradish. I could tell you the gutter man came and cleaned out the gutters before the ice hit this year. I can continue to write about the frustration of learning to write a really good fiction book.

These little bits of life seem boring and repetitive to me today. So I am thinking about what it really takes to write a little slice of life – a slice that is just about the day to day things we do. What makes that slice interesting? What makes it different? Does it need to leave us with a message to think about or can it just be a description of the moment? What makes us want to come back and read this persons writing?

Marion Dane Bauer wrote about her morning routine on her blog today. She shared with us her morning breakfast and the start to the day. She wasn’t overly descriptive but as you read you relax into her quiet time of reflection. I marvel at that skill to just drop us into her life with ease. This writing was simply a welcome to being older, a beautiful reflection. A writer I will come back to reading.

So what does she do:

  • She is specific about her dogs, the coffee for her partner, the view of her yard
  • She makes connections to people and memories
  • Her paragraphs are short but contain details that are important to the moment
  • She writes from the specific of her life to the more general thoughts of our society, or to others thinking – helping us to connect to the bigger thought in her writing

These four steps are done quickly within 800 words. It is something to think about and to strive for when I work on these little moments of life. They can be hard to write at times.

I understand now when my students would say,  “I don’t have anything to write about.” Yes, we all have so many moments but I think now they were really saying – how do I make those moments come alive?

This is the craft of writing and yes; after I have left my classroom and the teaching of writing I am still trying to figure it all out.



About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
This entry was posted in Reflection, writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Still learning to write

  1. mrsclark6 says:

    Joanne, thanks for sharing your slice. I am a budding writer myself, although I have claimed to teach writing for years. I am taking this time as a stay at home mom to get more writing and learning done. I’d love to hear more about your journey as a fiction writer-that’s where I want to go. It’s just that right now, my kids provide me with so many true stories to put on paper. Hope to see more of your writing and thoughts soon. -Katie

  2. Dana Murphy says:

    I have felt this exact same way very often on Monday evenings when I sit down to write my weekly Slice. I love how you turned toward a mentor for inspiration – exactly what we want our students to do.

  3. Linda Baie says:

    Joanne, these past recent months I’ve been in your place, too, trying not to write too much about my “past” teaching, but also sharing what I think someone might appreciate. I love how you analyzed Marion’s post. Beautiful, & she is a good writer for sure. But I enjoyed your writing too. Keep thinking it all out!

  4. Ramona says:

    I can identify with your post. I miss writing about the classroom, and do find myself returning to the same stuff over and over. I want to head over and check out the mentor text you looked at today. I like the fourth thing that you noticed and it made me think about Linda’s post this week, she certainly connected us to the bigger thought in her writing about what really matters (not red cups).

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