November is National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is an online forum for encouraging writers to take the steps to create and share their voice with their words. There is a dashboard for tracking your words, connections with other writers, and lots of tips and resources from other writers. There is even a young writer’s program for students. I first found NaNoWriMo when I was looking for writing opportunities for some of my gifted students. I have had two students take advantage of the program and complete a novel in a month. The editing process took us the rest of the school year, but that’s a story for another time.
I’m exploring different writing styles and haven’t done a top ten list in one of my blogs yet, so here it goes.
Top 10 Things I’ve Learned About Writing in November.
Writing takes courage. I’ve tried to write a novel and participate in this before. In fact, many times. I usually quit after the first day because I didn’t have a story idea, didn’t dedicate the time to it, or was just plain scared to put my words on paper. This time I decided just to write a minimum of 1,000 words every day no matter what.
Writing is messy. Writing is a way of capturing your thoughts on paper. My thoughts don’t usually come out in outline form. They come out in random order and at all different times. Just ask my husband, I often spill out a whole lot of thinking before I’m able to uncover my true point. Once I gave up the idea that I had to write a certain way and just started capturing my thoughts the words flowed.
Writing hurts. Besides the physical pain of sitting for long periods of time and the soreness in your hands from writing or typing, writing brings up emotions. As you develop and connect with your characters you tap into real emotions and some of them hurt…a lot.
Writing heals. My writing this month has been inspired by the loss of our family dog. While writing has exposed many of my emotions to the surface it has also given me a way to feel those emotions, think about them and let them go. In many ways, writing has been my therapy.
Writing is not editing. The creative energy it takes to give voice to a story is much different than the energy it takes to sort through all the details of a story. I found for me that if I start to worry about the editing, the writing stops. For now, I’ve decided that I won’t reread or correct anything I’ll just keep writing.
Writing challenges. I was struggling the other day with what to write. My daughter who is doing NaNoWriMo also was writing too. We decided to do a writing challenge. We gave each other an object to include in our writing and then a 20 minute time limit. We both wrote furiously for 20 minutes, easily meeting our daily word count. At the end we both had short stories to share and some new directions for our work.
Writing takes time. I think one of the main reasons most people don’t write a novel is that it takes time. Getting 1,000 words can take me anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on my mood and flow at the time. This can be a tough thing to prioritize. We often don’t feel we can justify this time in the classroom and move students quickly through a process that probably can’t be rushed.
Writing can be improved. As I struggled to write my thoughts I started reading advice from others and looking for more and more information about writing. I opened up some of my favorite books and really looked at how the author shared the story with me. How did they start? How did I learn about the character? There are a lot of resources and writing communities to help writers improve their craft.
Writing is not what I learned in school. The whole writing process – choose a topic, gather ideas, organize, write, revise and revise doesn’t seem to be the way I work or the way many writers work. For me, I find I just have to write and write and let the ideas flow. I think my story is evolving. It might be complete garbage in the end, but what I’m learning about myself and my story in the process is far more valuable than a finished product. My daughter is a talented creative writer and she doesn’t plan out her story either but sort of sees the whole thing from beginning to end in her head. Once she sees her story the words fly out of her. She usually cannot write fast enough. Her stories often need a lot of detail editing, but the gist of the story and the development of characters is amazing. I think we should probably spend less time teaching the writing process and more time having students actually write.
Writing is fun. I don’t always find writing for a purpose fun but writing just for me, writing just to tell my story whatever that story happens to be at the time is fun. I never felt this when I was writing for a grade. Writing for myself is pure joy.
Much of what we do in school helps students become students. Think about how we teach writing. As teachers, many of us have never really written. We can follow all the rules and we can follow the curriculum, but we are not writers. However, we can become writers. We can help our students understand writing as a discipline. We can help students read with a writer’s eye and write with a reader’s eye. We can take the time to write ourselves, join our students in writing experiences and help them find the resources and the parts of our curriculum which will help them develop their craft. Although we are not writers, we are teachers and we are relentless in our efforts to inspire our students and develop scholarly habits that will help them grow as human beings and disciplinarians. We have a choice, we can teach one way to write and grade it or we can use writing to help our students think, to make a mess and learn to untangle it, to uncover their hurts, to heal their pain, to persevere, to challenge themselves and others, to get lost in time, to learn to continuously improve, and experience the joy of telling a good story.
There’s still a lot of November left.
What will you write?
What will you inspire your students to write?