SOL Challenge Day 5 – Learning about writing alone

SONY DSCThis is a quick note to self – maybe to you too! Are there things you know, things you say to your students, things that you have said over and over many times but all of a sudden you think “Oh, this is what I need to do!”

This week, well really for the last 6 months or so I have been struggling with my fiction writing. I have a story but just can flush it out into a complete story. There are parts missing in my head.

I have been reading and reading children’s books, book about plants that might relate to my story, going to places in town that might help me think this through. I was sure I was doing the right thing but getting no where fast.

So last night I thought about what happened when I wrote a complete picture book years ago. What made that story come together? What makes stories come together for authors?

I know or think it is

  • researching ideas and details
  • reading lot of stories that might be similar
  • writing small parts that can fit together

but there is one thing I know I say often but realize suddenly I have not done!

Time Alone

I have gone looking/reading books with others around me. I have gone to the arboretum with others around me. I have written while other are around.

I am a social person who is use to having students around me all the time. I am use to writing blog posts with others beside me. I like the voices of others close by.

But what I realize is those voice around me hold their own story, create their own beginning, middle and end. Those friends and voices take over and my characters are shy, they seem to remain silent.

There may be a time when the story is strong enough on its own that I can write with others around but for now I need to make the time for silence.

I need to find the time to:

  • sit at the research library alone
  • to walk the gardens alone
  • to write pages alone
  • to read alone

I believe when creating a story from scratch there is a need to give your characters a quiet space to come forward. There needs to be lots of open space in my/your thinking to let something new form, to create its own shape, to develop a voice.

If you read about writers process they talk about researching, reading, writing but under it all is that quiet time alone when the story rolls around in your head and the characters come forward to share their story so we can write.

I realize that is what needs to happen – I need to create a great deal of quiet time to find the missing parts!

The other side to this is how does this idea effect us as writing teachers? Do you put this in place for your students – this open quiet thinking time? Do we share with students the need to find a quiet space to let their stories grow within? Do we help them learn to be comfortable with time alone for just thinking?

Is silence a part of your writing practice?  I think it needs to be for me!

Are you are writer who needs quiet or are you a writer who needs lots of action around you?

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About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
This entry was posted in listening, Reflection, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to SOL Challenge Day 5 – Learning about writing alone

  1. aileenhower says:

    I definitely need quiet and to have my brain be engaged – not sluggish. You post some great ideas that many of us will benefit from. Thanks!

  2. terierrol says:

    I also love and need my quiet time for creativity. Good luck to you and your book. It sounds like you are on the right path, keep going.

  3. writintime says:

    I absolutely value quiet but you raise such an interesting point. When you share time and places with others they do fill the spaces up and you and your thoughts (or characters as you so interestingly point out) get squished out. I believe the loneliness of writers is prominent in Anne Lamott’s excellent book on writing, Bird by Bird. Your post just further pointed out the “aha” moment of providing quiet, for ourselves and for our students so thoughts and ideas can develop.

  4. Linda Baie says:

    I had a quiet half hour in my classroom, no interaction, no conferring, just thinking or writing. I think it helped. I definitely need quiet to think, and sometimes that means hours. You’ve discovered some good points for yourself, too, it seems Joanne. And you’ve made me realize that it’s important for me, too.

  5. Loved this piece! I think I need both. I love to generate new pieces when I’m out and about–in the classroom with my students, sitting in a busy coffee shop, at football practice, waiting for my son’s basketball practice to start. But once I really get into the bones and sinews of the piece, I have to have quiet. I actually think it’s the space in between–the times between sitting down to actually write, when I’m doing other stuff–that the piece gets written. Thanks for sharing these process thoughts. Lots to reflect upon here!

  6. parkers says:

    This spoke volumes to me. I am making space for my writing in my life. But, I love how you talk about how important that time alone is. . . to think, to let ideas stew around in your head. Then, the reminder that we need to give these moments to our students, too . That was the nice reminder.

  7. Tara Smith says:

    You are so right – all that research needs time to marinate.

  8. Writing often turns out to be a solitary act. Having said that I sometimes deliberately choose a busy place to write to remind myself that I can actually write anywhere if I need to. This self talk you have shared is quite invaluable. Your questions, -‘Do you put this in place for your students – this open quiet thinking time? Do we share with students the need to find a quiet space to let their stories grow within? Do we help them learn to be comfortable with time alone for just thinking? are the nub of the writing workshop. Talk is critical before and after we write but if we want students to truly appreciate the magic of composing, We must support them with quiet time. It allows their very best words to make it onto the page. An excellent post for provoking important considerations around writing.

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