July 18th, 2011
We continue our Summer Writing Blogstitute with an entry by Ruth Ayres, coauthor of Day by Day: Refining Writing Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective Practice. If you ever found yourself wondering why on earth you write when it’s just so hard, this post will help you — and your students — push through those difficult times.
The next installment in our Blogstitute will appear next Monday, July 25. Kate Messner will talk about how to teach students to critique writing. Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered for a chance to win a package of five writing books at the end of the Blogstitute. You can also order this great package of resources at a special discounted price!
Celebrating Writers — Including YOU!
The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.
The more I write, the more I realize the importance of celebrating the steps of the journey. Writing is challenging, and often I want to walk away from the hard work of putting words on a page. I know our students feel the same way. They get up to sharpen their pencils, drink some water, and visit the supply center eight times in ten minutes. When the challenging work of writing becomes overwhelming, we find reasons to avoid the sweat.
Which makes me wonder, Why do I keep at it on the really tough days? And then, How can I help students to keep writing on the really tough days? It comes down to remembering the days when writing is rewarding. The days when the words flow and I write several pages of a draft. The times when I rewrite an ending and love it. The joy when someone tells me my words impacted them. I write because I’m addicted to the rush of my words going out into the world and making a difference in other people’s lives.
The small steps on the journey make the final step of publication possible for a writer. If we don’t celebrate the small steps often, we run out of stamina to make it to the final step. Here are some ways to celebrate the journey writers take in writing workshop:
- Open Share Time: At the end of writing workshop, invite students to share the things they are feeling good about as writers. Leave the invitation wide open by asking, “What is working well for you as a writer today?” They may share a cover to their most recent book, a revised lead, or the way they edited for capitalization.
- Process Groups: About a year ago I joined a writing group. Each month I meet with four other writers and we listen, encourage, and give feedback. More than anything else, though, we celebrate our writing lives. The e-mails between meetings are regular and usually based on celebrating the small steps we are taking as writers. This makes me realize the importance of honoring the process. By dividing students into small groups and inviting them to talk about the process of writing, they are given this same opportunity. To help this succeed, consider modeling the kind of talk you expect. Share with them your recent writing. Then listen as students talk about their writing work, and offer specific feedback and encouragement. As students begin listening and talking in their small groups, be vigilant in listening to the tone of their conversations. A positive tone should be used to celebrate individual writing processes.
- Before and After: When I look at my writing from long ago and compare it to my writing today, I’m pleased with my improvement. Sometimes I don’t even have to wait for time to pass to feel proud of the improvement. When I revise a scene to make the dialogue more realistic or when I craft the language in an essay to make it read more smoothly, I feel good when I look at the initial draft and the revised version. Providing opportunities for students to look at their before-and-after work and reflect on their growth is another way to celebrate their writing lives. I like to encourage students to write their realizations on fancy paper or a cutout and then post their reflections on a bulletin board so others can celebrate their writing journeys too.
Celebration is about so much more than a final copy of a piece of writing. Celebrating the small steps on the road to being a writer gives us the energy to keep writing, even on the tough days. As you celebrate your writing life alongside your students, may you be pleasantly surprised to find more and more motivation to put words on the page.
Entry Filed under: Writing