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Finding Your Own Writing Process

This week I’ve been thinking about how the writers in our classrooms can find their own writing process. To help give weight to some of my ideas I’ve been rereading some of my notes from NCTE. Here are some of the snippets lingering in my brain:

“Children can have the look of independence. We ought to ask if they are truly independent or just looking the part.” — Debbie Miller

“For independence, kids need to know who they are as readers [writers] and the choices available to them.” — Kristen Venable

“Time and trust are important to independence.” — Patrick Allen

If students are going to find and own their own writing processes, then they must be given substantial opportunity to work independently. It is by writing and writing and writing, THEN reflecting on the work we do as writers, which defines our writing processes.

At Literacy for All, I listened to Rob Buyea (author of Because of Mr. Terupt) speak about his writing process. Then at NCTE I heard Gary Paulsen tell his story. I like hearing authors talk about their work. It validates the work I am doing when I hear another writer talk about the idiosyncrasies of the process. When Rob talked about the way his characters filled his mind and led the story, I felt affirmed as a young adult fiction writer.

I’m also struck by the way the writing process is so similar from writer to writer, yet very unique at the same time. For example, every writer envisions, plans, drafts, revises, edits, and publishes. But everyone doesn’t do these things in the same way. And I’m finding, for myself at least, I don’t do the same things from genre to genre. When I’m writing young adult fiction, I plan bit by bit. I’m not exactly sure of the upcoming chapters (although I do have a sense of the end). When writing Day by Day, we outlined the chapters and cycles before we began writing. We planned the ten discussions in each of the cycles well before we wrote them. When I write a poem, I start drafting and the plan takes shape as I weave words. Other times, the poem takes shape in my head and it almost seems as though I skip the planning phase. All writers plan, but everyone doesn’t “look” like me when they plan. (Which is a very good thing, I might add!)

So the question that is taking up a massive amount of head space is this: How do we give our students opportunities to understand the writing process, while at the same time, find and own their unique writing processes?

Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

3 thoughts on “Finding Your Own Writing Process Leave a comment

  1. I also wrestle with this year after year. How do I get my students to understand the passion and joy I have for writing. I start with the totally prescribed curriculum but then I get frustrated because I don’t see them “embracing” writing. Every year, I sit down and talk to them honestly about what I am wrestling with. I think when they hear how much it means to me for them to want them to love writing, not just write, it begins to make sense to them. I show them writing that I have been working on since my first Writers Notebook with NWP and how I am still working on the a piece about my grandmother. I don’t know if my kids will outscore others on the standardized tests…I do know that every year i get a letter from a former student or parent who thanked me for the previous year by igniting the love for writing in their child. I also strongly believe that in order to become a writer, you must be a poet and we spend time observing nature…things…life and writing poems. It gives them a chance to take a risk.

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  2. I find that if I write with my students I feel more tuned into the assignment, can offer more advice, and realize there are multiple ways to get to the end product. Seeing me as a writer helps them understand we are on the same side, which is sometimes challenging to do with high school students.
    If I don’t write the assignment, I find that I may treat the assignment as a fill in the blank situation in order to make the assignment easier for the students.

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  3. Funny, but this is a topic I am wrestling with as well. With each year of teaching experience, I seem to have gained more willingness to let each student have some space to flex their wings and try to find their own distinctive writing voice. In other words, I’ve become much less dogmatic about “you must stick to this plan, this style, this method.”
    In those first weeks of writing workshop, when were notebooking and investigating mentor texts and examining a writer’s life, I try to sketch out each student as a writer – how they work, what seems natural, what particular pace they prefer. Then, as we move into our genre investigations, I try to teach them to adapt their style to the work at hand.
    I think the most important thing I can do for my kids is to teach them in a way that allows them to feel a true sense of self confidence in their capabilities as a writer.
    My youngest daughter had a fifth grade teacher who killed her joy in writing – every effort was marked up so much, and she learned that the only way to do well was to simply make all those “corrections” her teacher had notated in the way her teacher wanted it written. The end result: Olivia’s own voice and writing habits were entirely erased that year. I don’t think she’s ever really recovered. So, I guess I’ve taken that example to heart when it comes to my own students – I want them to write well, but I also want them to know who they are as writers, and to enjoy a satisfaction in their own individual writerliness.

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