When the co-authors of Two Writing Teachers invited me to join the team, I was overwhelmed. When Julie Johnson asked me to co-author an iBook through the Columbus Area Writing Project, I was again submerged in fear. I found myself wondering if these writers had read my writing. I mean, if they had read my ramblings on my personal blog they wouldn’t be inviting me, right? I enjoy the feeling of having written, but sometimes the act of assembling my thoughts into words on a page numbs my fingers as my head floods with doubt. I had never considered myself a writer. At least not a “real writer” like the co-authors of TWT or like Julie and the others she invited to write alongside her.
So Why Did I Say Yes?
Because, like, Berené Brown, I know “Risk aversion kills innovation.” I wholeheartedly believe I have to take risks to grow. Each day I sit beside young writers, some who know just what story they will tell. In the same workshop, I have students who grapple to find their story. Other writers fret over spelling and labor over each word. As I pull up beside these writers to confer, I work to assure them they have stories, their stories are valid, and people want to read them. I encourage the students to push past the struggle and let their stories spill out on the page. I carefully plan my language. I want these writers to feel valued, brave, and I want them to feel the pride of having written.
So for this reason, I write. I write because as a teacher who writes, I know the self-doubt and the intimidation that leaves a writer sitting and staring blankly at an empty page. Fumbling for just the right tone, the right voice, and perspective. All along wondering how the message will be received.
As a teacher who writes, I know the intention of regular writing isn’t enough. Sometimes as a writer I need a push, a deadline, or a well-meaning friend. A friend who will make me realize driving through all the murky ugliness of writing has powerful rewards and a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. When I joined Julie and the team of writers at CAWP, I often wondered if my writing would be strong enough to stand beside the writing of the others. Each time Julie and I met, I waited to hear her say, “Let’s try this again.” or offer me a gentle way out of the project. Instead, Julie encouraged me to dig deeper into my myself and pull out the story that propels me to do the work I do each day with students. (The iBook is complete now and will be released soon, and I am still not sure my work will make it in the book. Do writers ever lose their doubts?)
As a teacher who writes, I know the power of an active writing community. I have found new and powerful friendships through my writing groups. Each group has talented and moving writers who will talk writing with me any time of day. They offer feedback, and when needed they nudge a little harder. This support helps me realize I have stories, stories that need to be told. My writing communities remind me writing is individual, writing comes from the heart and because of their support, I feel brave enough to embrace all the struggles of writing. In our writing workshop, I watch for opportunities to come together as writers in ways that will support and push these writers in the gentle way my community supports me. Having a writing buddy you can count on can be all a writer needs to take the next step.
As a teacher who writes, I know the value of a writing process. I like to sit in a local coffee shop and blast my favorite focus music through my headphones (thank you Spotify). Seated in the coffee shop surrounded by others, but hearing nothing but the words bouncing around in my head is how I work. Here in my space, my thoughts fly and fight for their place on the page. Each one falsely assuming its importance outweighs the others. With each word I struggle to get the message just right and when I am sure it is clear, I hit return… and Grammarly pops up. “You might want to rewrite, change the passive voice, or replace squinting modifier, etc.” UGH.
At this moment, I find empathy for the writers in my room. Writers who labor over story, message, spelling, fine motor, voice, and craft all while being six or seven years old. Writing takes bravery, hard work, and confidence. Each writer has an individual process and skills; these differences don’t change the fact they are writers. Writing gives me a deeper appreciation of what it is I am asking of my students and tells me when to sit back and when to push.
Whether the writing you do is personal or public, writing changes the way you see writers. This is why I write.