Be a writer. It matters.

Today I met with a teacher who said these words to me:

I don’t like writing. I really don’t like writing. Give me math all day long every day and I’m happy, but don’t make me write.

I appreciated her candidness. I love it when teachers are honest with me and I’m always humbled that they trust me enough to tell me things like this. I was also surprised. She’s an experienced writing workshop teacher who I refer others to observe and learn from her instruction. She went on to share:

I decided to discipline myself and start my own writer’s notebook. I decided if I’m asking my students to write personal narratives then I should write one too. So I’m writing and I can’t believe how much my instruction is changing.

We went on to talk about how being a writer transformed her writing workshop. She shared how her view of the writing process has become less lockstep and more fluid. She compared it to solving sophisticated math problems. Everyone always wants to know the steps to solve the problems, she said, but when you understand the math, you don’t need the steps. The solution happens as you think through the math. She also is an artist and described the way the process of creating a painting evolves naturally when she is engaged in the process.

This is how writing should work too. It is an organic, natural process. When we understand purpose, craft and conventions, and how they all work together, then we no longer need the steps of the writing process. It simply happens as we think through the project.

If you are looking to lift the level of your writing instruction, then I invite you to write. Start a notebook (or dust off an old one), play with words, try your hand at the current writing project your students are working on, just write. Then make a little list of the things you notice about your own writing process. I’d love to  know how your writing workshop is transformed by being a writer yourself.