My Ah-ha Writing Class


I’ve made my share of confessions here on this blog. I wrote about my struggle to keep a notebook here and here.

There’s more.

Now that school is in full swing, making time to write as often as I should, is hard. I write a lot, but not every day. I have two ideas that are begging for my attention, two ideas I’d like to pursue and see how far I can take them. But, until I buckle down and write daily, these seeds will not develop.

And so, last Saturday afternoon I treated myself to a writing class. My hope was to gain writing energy from the class. What I didn’t anticipate, was that putting myself in the role of student would energize and enlighten my thinking about teaching writers.

The class began with each of us sharing about our writing lives and our writing challenges. I spoke about notebook struggles, and seeds that are rolling around my brain, but going nowhere. My rambling was full of apologies and self doubt, but as soon as I finished, a classmate looked at me, and then at the group, and said, “I think she is a writer.”

I had my first ah-ha moment right then.

Saying  “You are a writer,” is impactful. It communicates belief and confidence.

My second ah-ha moment happened when the instructor spoke about notebook keeping, blogging, and drafting on the computer. “Do what works for you,” she said. “The only wrong way is not to write at all.”

Keep in mind that writers are individuals, and what works for one may not work for another. Make it a priority to help each writer discover the conditions that work best for him/her.

Regarding notebooks, our instructor encouraged us to choose inexpensive, portable notebooks, so that we feel free to write on just one side of the page, and not obligated to fill a page completely before beginning a new page. Portable is essential for me. If the notebook isn’t with me, I often “lose” an idea by the time I’ve located the notebook.

I’ve wondered about how or if I should organize my notebook. Sometimes I’ve written a quote, or an idea in a random spot in the notebook and had a hard time finding it later. Our teacher encouraged us to use small, durable sticky note flags to mark different kinds of entries. Simple. Brilliant. She showed us her notebooks  with red flags marking seeds for future pieces, blue flags for quotes, yellow for lists, and green for ideas. She told us to keep a stash of each color of sticky note flag on the last page of our notebooks. Why hadn’t I thought of that?

Learn from other writers. Make sure the materials and methods support, and don’t complicate the writing habit. Keep it easy.

The class reminded me that what I need and what my students need is much the same. The more I write, and take time to reflect on my writing life, the more I learn about how to support young writers.

Spending time in the presence of writers helps my writing energy. Being a student helps me as a teacher.