Writing Through the Hard Parts

I started running last April using a Couch to 5K training program. I completed my first 5K race in June, and now I am running 10-12 miles consistently every week. There is a saying amongst runners that goes something like this: The first mile is a liar. Don’t ever trust it. You see, the first mile can be really hard. Like, so hard you will want to quit. But I have run enough miles by now to know the secret: just keep running. Eventually your breath will even out, your heart rate will find a rhythm, and your leg muscles will carry you without complaint. That first mile, though… it’s a doozy.

Sometimes writing is like that too, isn’t it? The first words, the first paragraph, and the first page can be hard. You have to write enough to know the secret: just keep writing. You can’t trust the first words.

One day I watched my daughter take out a piece of paper and some crayons. She chose a color and scribbled a patch of color across the page. She stepped back and looked at the paper, turning her head to the right and then the left. I could tell she didn’t know what she was making, and I expected she would start over on a new piece of paper. I left her alone to work and was surprised to find this creation proudly displayed on our refrigerator later that day:

I was so glad she didn’t trust her first scribble. Writing is like that, too, sometimes I wanted to tell her.

This year when you see your students struggle through their first sentences, don’t rescue them. Don’t offer your own ideas to fill the void. Instead give them an empathetic smile and tell them you have been there too. Encourage your students to write through the hard parts. They just might be surprised what they find on the other side.