I just returned from NCTE 2016, and again the conference and all the bits and pieces of it touched me deeply. Each year something different stands out, and this year my moment came to me surprisingly. Sitting on the edge of a session talking with my friend and co-writer, Dana, it hit me. Here I was, at THE NCTE conference with so many brilliant minds. I was here as an attendee and also as a writer/presenter.
I was a presenter encouraging teachers, coaches, and educational leaders to join the writing community. I would be sharing in front of writers with deep experience and knowledge of what it means to be a writer.
The realization of this moment gave me chills and led me to share my writing backstory with Dana.
I fell in love with writing in a creative writing class in high school. Maybe it was writing poetry; maybe it was the love notes to my high school sweetheart, who is now my husband. Or maybe it was the fact that it wasn’t a math class! Whatever it was, I fell in love with writing in that class.
Fast forward a few years into my first college writing class and my first paper. I was eager to hear the feedback from my professor. I walked into his office, I can still see the stacks of books and papers flooding his room. I can still smell the old building. I can still hear the clicking of the steps and rustling of bookbags in the hall. I had no idea what was coming next. As I walked in the door, my professor extended his arm across the desk and flung the paper in my direction,
Miss Cunningham, you have a wonderful voice and technique, but your writing is littered with spelling and grammatical errors.
I took my paper and walked out defeated, no longer a writer.
Dana listened to my story and encouraged me to open my presentation with this story to help other writers find their courage. I was hesitant, the experience had halted my inner writer for years. What if sharing it again had the same result?
During our session I listened to Beth and Dana present, I tweeted their wise words and noted key points to blend our presentations. Then I received this mention on Twitter~
This is the negative feedback that killed my writing courage for so many years? Comments like these do nothing to teach a writer about the support and encouragement of a writing community? Comments like this can instill fear and stifle writers.
It was time for me to speak, and it just felt right. I wanted to advocate for writers who were afraid to write, so I shared my writing backstory. I pushed through the latest assault, I found my writing guts and I spoke. I felt supported and lifted up by the educators and writers around me.
Finding My Writing Guts:
I find my courage to write through my friend, teaching partner, and writer Cathy. Cathy stirred my inner writer and gave me the courage to write for an audience. Cathy’s confidence in me as a professional and a writer along with my student’s need to connect to a larger audience brought about the birth of my first blog, Primary Perspective. My fears and doubts continue to rattle in my head, but for my students, I write.
I want to advocate for all of you out there who want to write but don’t feel worthy! Grab your writing tools and WRITE!
It takes guts to write.
Just as Dana’s companionship at NCTE gave me the courage to share my story at NCTE, her post, You Can Write inspired me to share my story here today.
My Push to Write
When I am not writing, I see a difference in my teaching, I need to be writing. Thank you, to all current and former students, to Cathy, Carolyn, Dana, the co-writers of Two Writing Teachers and YOU the readers for restoring my courage to write.
I hope all of you will find the confidence as a writer for you and your students. For me, writing has changed the way I see the world around me, my teaching, and given me a compassion for writers. A level of compassion I didn’t have before writing.
Because I write:
- I understand the process takes time.
- I understand why kids stare at blank pages.
- I understand you can’t do your best every day.
- I understand what it means to teach a writer.
- I am an advocate for teachers who write and writers.
- You can write, you change your life and a student’s life forever.