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What fuels writing workshop?

Around my school, we have three more Mondays of school left in 2011. That’s not much, and yet, during this season of grey days, holiday excitement, and indoor recess, it can seem so l o n g. It has me thinking about the energy level in writing workshop. Is it high or low?

Like other creative endeavors, the life of a writer ebbs and flows. At least it does for me. Some days, weeks even, the energy for writing is high. The words flow into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and I feel good about the work. My writing life isn’t always like this. There are times when I clunk words on to the page. The words line up, but there isn’t a semblance of a sentence, the meaning is unclear. The work is slow.

This is also true for life inside a classroom during writing workshop. Sometimes we spin along. Sometimes we sputter. I’ve noticed December often is a time when writing workshop sputters. Which is why I’m asking the question: What fuels writing workshop?

More importantly, I think we should ask:

What fuels writers?

Go ahead, take a few minutes, and make a list.

  • What fuels you as a writer?
  • What have you heard other writers say fuels them?
  • What have you noticed fuels the young writers in your classroom?

Really, jot a list. Right there on that scrap of paper or on a wayward sticky note. I can wait.

Here’s my list:

  • Reread my old notebooks and mark places that spark my brain.
  • Go back to some old drafts and reread them. This always makes my fingers itch to revise. Time clarifies and inspires.
  • Start something drastically different from what I’ve been working on.
  • Talk to other writers. Listen to what they are working on. Get excited about potential projects.
  • Make something for someone I care about. Audience matters!
  • Play with words. Take some risks with craft moves I admire.

Along this idea is a blog post, “Sometimes It Gets Messy,” I wrote in October 2011 about troubleshooting when workshop gets messy. It’s been on my mind, so I wanted to share the link again.

How about you? What’s on your list of things that fuel writers? How might you use this in your writing workshop?

My apologies for being MIA on Friday and Saturday. Did you miss me? If you’re curious about what kept me from blogging, check out my post on Ruth Ayres Writes.

Ruth Ayres View All

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

6 thoughts on “What fuels writing workshop? Leave a comment

  1. I just started working along side a new teacher during her writer’s workshop on Monday. I’ve never worked with this group of children and I am just beginning to figure out who they are as writers. The first time we gathered, I told them we had to plan a writing celebration to take place before Christmas vacation. We had to decide where it would take place, when it would take place, who would be invited, and what writing would be celebrated. I asked them to think about it and we would get the date on the calendar the next time I came in, which would be today. I’m interested to see what they come up with.


  2. We have peeked into a new area of writing with lots of new books all over the room as mentor text. Today we just talked about non fiction writing again in my fourth grade classroom. The students sat waiting to jump into the baskets of books all around the room. They talked about what they would find and how we might use them but no touching, reading or looking today. They are more than ready to see what is waiting for them tomorrow and what we will be writing. ( a bit of a gift in this season of giving – new books and a new writing project)


  3. You just articulated what I know I have been feeling. I am avoiding diving back into the thick of writing workshop after having 5 days off for Thanksgiving and being gone at the NCTE convention 3 school days prior to that (with only a single day back in between). What I am dreading is just what you are talking about. Some writers are fueled up and ready to go, while others are running on empty. Thanks for the reminder that this is natural, that these are writers I am dealing with, not just hyped up teens on a holiday high. I am going to shift my approach and dive back in!


  4. Thank you for your thoughtful insight. My middle school students are ready for our holiday break even though we just came back from Thanksgiving. We are sputtering and need to give ourselves a boost to get going in these final weeks before the holidays. I need to reevaluate our practices and revisit what we already know how to do. Enthusiasm is the name of the game!!


  5. Because we have mostly students who give gifts at some holiday during this time of year, one thing I did was help students work on some kind of writing ‘gift’ for someone, or for the whole family. I have a few examples that were useful that I’ve done in the past, & we talked about numerous genres that would work as gifts. Really, during the brief time we had, making new choices for writing was motivating. We had sharing each week of what was being written so that everyone could comment with support. It is an odd time, because it’s so difficult to start something new that can’t be finished before the long break. I also especially like your idea of re-visiting old notebooks (or for students, ideas written earlier in the year). Sometimes old ideas are good fuel for new ones. Thanks for the interest in the busy December weeks.


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