Posted on the bookshelf behind my desk is this quote from Horace:
“Nulla Dies Sine Linea”
It means “Never a day without a line.” I learned it from Penny Kittle who I assume learned in from one of her mentors.
I thought if I posted the reminder, it would help me write more. It didn’t.
Sitting on my desk right behind where I place my laptop is this quote that I found in one of the many books on writing that pack my shelves:
“Write when you write.”
I thought if it stared at me everyday, it would help me avoid distractions. It didn’t.
The only way for me to write is to create some discipline. I almost said find discipline. Then develop discipline. Neither quite work. Knowing myself quite well. I know I have to carve out the time and cleverly create some. I can be tricky like that.
So, this is my five step plan to meet my writing goals this year. Maybe something similar can help you meet yours:
1. Get a part time job. That’s how I’m going to have to think about it — as a job. I’m committing to leaving the school an hour after the bell and going to my writing place: the public library just across the street, or the Starbucks around the corner, or the Barnes and Noble down the Interstate. I cannot stay in my classroom and write. I find a million other things to do — plan, grade, organize the books on my shelves in alphabetical order. I cannot go home and write. I find other things to do — cook or clean or lay on the couch or pet the dog.
2. Start a writing club. I started a book club with my friend, Tess, and some friends I used to work with in my prior district. The idea started as a way for us to stay connected because we know how hard it is to stay friends with folks we never see. Now, we meet once a month, late in the afternoon at a cute little restaurant not too far from where we all teach, and we talk about a book. We’ve only met once so far. Our next meeting is soon, but I’ve read two books I would not have read without these friends and this book club accountability. The same will work for a writing club. If I will really write and not just meet for scones and hot chocolate (like I did the last time I tried it).
3. Free the notebook. I have a perfectionist problem in all aspects of my life, except for my mess of a closet. The throw rug on the floor in my classroom has to be straight, the markers lined up in neat rows on the whiteboard rail, the anchor charts on the wall in absolute alignment. The blank page in a new notebook. Why is it so hard to just write? If my handwriting is weird or sloppy or whatever, even if it’s the pen’s fault (you know how your writing changes depending on the pen), I hate it. I have to stop hating it. Who cares? Absolutely, not a soul. My husband says that my parents put too much pressure on me as the first daughter after three son and then being followed by four younger sisters. Middle Child Syndrome with complications of being the oldest daughter. Really? That’s what makes me afraid to mess up on a page in my notebook? Whatever it is, I must set it loose. I have to free my mind and let my thoughts loose on the page.
4. Join a writing challenge. I found a welcoming group of writers called My 500 Words in a Facebook group. The encouragement and kindness is contagious. I found myself reading others’ posts and sincerely commenting. I also began following Poets & Writers. They have a “Tools for Teachers” page with prompts. I wrote my first poem of the year after reading one. It’s at the end of this post. I know that a lot of my problem with putting in writing time is the blank that envelopes my head at the end of a long day. While I have a love/hate relationship with prompts in my teaching life, I do think they are valuable tools to get stagnated thinking flowing.
5. Write as much as writing students. For several years I prided myself on writing every assignment that I gave my students. They wrote weekly blog posts. I wrote them, too. They wrote reflections on literature. I wrote them, too. They wrote analysis essays in preparation for the AP Lang exam. I wrote them, too. Everything my students wrote, I wrote, too. Then, I stopped. I don’t even know why, but it has made a difference — and not a good one. I know that if I want to be a credible writing teacher, I have to show my students that I am a writer. They must see me struggle through the thinking, the planning, the drafting, the revising. I used to be great at all this. I need to be great at it again. I saved a slip of paper that one student wrote at the end of the year on her last evaluation: “I love it that Mrs. Rass writes everything she asks us to write. I’ve learned to love writing because of her. Thank you, Mrs. Rass.”
Anything else? Help me out here, dear reader, what are your suggestions for helping busy teachers meet our writing goals?
Tagged: Readers Writers Workshop