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?