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Living the Life of a Writer

At this point of the school year, your writing workshop is probably in full swing.  You are chugging along through your writing curriculum, and you are probably using checklists and rubrics to assess your young writers’ developing skills.  Today’s post is a reminder to step back and think not only about the discrete writing skills you are teaching, but also about the writing lives of your students.  Consider your own writing life.  How do you work best?

Here are some things I believe to be true about writing:

All writers have a unique writing process.

The way I approach the task of writing is surely not the same way you approach the task of writing.  Some writers have a plan; others wing it.  Some writers draft fast and furiously; other writers revise each word as they go.  Some writers just start typing and marvel at what comes out; others know the end before they even start.  Every writer has a different process, and every writer is correct.  Do our classrooms welcome all types of writers, or are classroom routines biased towards a particular type of writer?  For example, do you require a brainstorming web before each draft?

Writing is hard work.

Writing is difficult.  It is really, really difficult.  Nothing frustrates me like writing.  This is my third attempt today at drafting this post.  I chucked the whole idea twice already… and then came back to it.  I started over, I backspaced and deleted, I logged into Instagram as a distraction.  Being a writer, I know if I stick with it, I will figure it out.  I know writing is hard work, and I trust the process.  Do your students?  Do they know the reward is coming, or do they give up easily and think they are just no good at writing?  Have you overtly and explicitly shared your own struggles with writing?

Writers need a support system.

I have a support system as a writer.  I have my Editor-in-Chief (my husband).  I have the community of Slicers who comment on my writing each week.  I have this amazing team of co-authors at Two Writing Teachers who are always willing to bounce around an idea or offer feedback.  In December, I will be part of a new online writing group which I am really excited about.  I have people in my life who know I am a writer.  They listen, they read my words, they offer feedback and encouragement.  Do our students have a reliable support system?  Do they have multiple options for getting feedback or talking through an idea?

Writers write.

As a writer, I know I need to carve out time each week to write.  I write during my lunch break or after I put my daughters to bed.  I am never done writing.  There is always another Slice of Life Story to write or another blog post deadline approaching.  Do our students have time to write each and every day?  More importantly, do they use that time?  Do they have a revolving door of writing projects that fuels them?  Do they know writing is never done?

I spend a lot of time mulling these ideas over in my head, thinking about how we can infuse lessons and routines into classrooms that will support the hard work of being a writer.  I would love to hear how you support the writing lives of your students – how you give them space and time to live like writers.  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.


Dana Murphy View All

Literacy Coach, Reader, Writer

5 thoughts on “Living the Life of a Writer Leave a comment

  1. Dana,
    I have mulling over your post for a few days. Each time I read it I thought the same thing, I have to allow my kids to see writing is tough. I have been hesitant to let this FACT to be visible to them. I worried they would give up on writing. I am certainly not giving my kiddos enough credit. Kids love a challenge in math, reading, and at recess. Why didn’t I apply this knowledge to writing?
    Next week I am letting the “cat out of the bag” and issuing the challenge to find your personal writing style!
    Who knows, maybe this will turn into a post inspired by you!


  2. Though the writing is hard, it reaps so much reward. I love to read what you write. You are so thoughtful and want to have kids understand what writing can give us. Thank you for sharing this.


  3. I love this post, Dana, and these important reminders. I think if you aren’t really a writer, you might not understand that the process is different for everyone and that it’s okay if you aren’t the type of writer who needs to make a web before you begin. A supportive community and an audience of readers is so important for having a real, authentic reason to write!


  4. I was reminded of the need to honor different writers’ processes yet again today. I was volunteering in my kiddo’s preschool classroom during journal time. One kid gets the whole story orally before he draws. Afterwards, he cannot remember his story the way he said it. I realized I need to scribe for him before he starts drawing. Another student loves chatting with me about his picture as he creates it. He doesn’t do so well with labeling after the fact. Your post made me realize I should probably pull him by himself (rather than with two buddies) so he has the time and space to do that. I could go on and on, but the thing is, no two of these budding writers are the same. We cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach for kids of any age.


  5. You aren’t kidding–writing is tough work. Finding the right support system is difficult, too. We can’t “see” our stories or hear our message like a stranger can. A book group read my latest book last week and invited me to speak. They treated me like a star. When I got home, I had a critique in my email from an editor on another book I’m writing. It was awful. Somehow I’d lost my character’s “voice.” Finding that can be a real challenge, especially when the girl is forty years younger than me. My editor said she sounded like a little old lady. Ouch! The best way to learn how to write is to write. I love that you have such a vast support system here. (I recommend your blog to many writers.) I enjoy your posts and think your ideas (and your writing) rock!


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