I think the thing that makes a writer is Habit. Yes, that’s habit with a capital H.
(I go back and forth between whether it’s habit that makes a writer or belief that makes a writer. However, I’m coming to realize that unless you believe you are a writer you won’t create a habit to be a writer. Without the habit you’ll never put words on the page, which, in reality, is a precedent for being a writer. So since belief is the initiative to establish a habit, I think it’s safe to say the thing that makes a writer is Habit.)
It doesn’t take a lot of time to build a habit. Rather it takes consistency and a bit of stubbornness. Although, until a habit is establish, sometimes it’s easy to blame time, as in “I don’t have enough time,” as the reason a habit isn’t formed.
I say this because I think time takes the blame in many classrooms when it comes to teaching writers.
If students are going to become writers (which is a prerequisite for meeting the demanding writing standards in common core), then some habits must be established. Notebook work is a key routine.
My notebooks are the lifelines to my writing life. Without them it would be impossible for me to do all of the writing that I do. Too often it seems that notebooks become busy work in classrooms. They become something to jump through the hoops. They become lifeless.
Because this is so different than my own writing life, it makes me wonder why notebooks aren’t lifelines to students’ writing lives.
I think it comes down to habit. There isn’t a notebook habit established. Much like book talks for readers, notebook work creates energy and excitement for writers. Here are a few notebook habits to establish.
- Make a list. Notebooks don’t have to be filled with prose. In fact, many of my entries are lists to hold my thinking. It’s important for writers to learn to capture their thoughts when they have a few minutes.
- Ask some questions. Curiosity keeps our minds whirling, a catalyst for writing.
- Write fast. Set the timer and jot a quick write. Don’t think. Just write.
By using notebooks on a regular basis, students can learn to catch ideas and allow them to grow between writing workshops. (It is also essential for students to also have longer blocks of time to flesh out writing and create projects. There are also times when I need to linger in my notebook to really pull on ideas and figure out key ideas and develop writing projects. This, however, is a post for another day!)