We are both living the dream – kids, community commitments, a day-job we love, great friends – the list goes on. Although we wouldn’t change a thing, writing can take a toll and can easily slip by the wayside if we do not plan for it. We prioritize it, and we make sure we set real but achievable goals for ourselves, so writing does not throw off the balance of our lives (or at least not too often)! One might think that after twenty-four years of collaboration we no longer need a process – not the case! In fact, we find the more we write, the more we pay attention to our process. So, here’s a peek into our process:
Practice What We Preach
We tell kids that writing is talking, drawing, acting, building and creating. So, we broaden the definition of writing for ourselves as well to include talking, drawing, sketching, post-it notes, voice notes, and words jotted on a notepad in the middle of the night. We draft in all of these ways, and we believe it helps us feel more productive. In the past, we only counted words typed as our “writing,” and this made it difficult to re-enter the process the next day or week. Recognizing the thinking and various ways we draft helps us synthesize our thoughts and be more productive once we do sit down to put words to paper.
If it is not on the schedule it often doesn’t happen. We schedule time in both our personal and joint calendars to write. At times this may be a few hours, and for longer projects, we may take a long weekend or week away to write. We find that we need dedicated time to dig into the writing without distractions. The intense, uninterrupted, dedicated time writing gives us the space we need to draft and to figure out how to structure our thoughts. We find that creating space to write also creates space for us to get away from our writing. When we are working on larger projects, it helps us to set it aside for a bit and then when we get back to it we can see it with fresh eyes. Even with smaller pieces, when time permits, we find it helps to get away from the writing for a bit and then revise with fresh eyes!
Talk it out!
We NEVER start writing until we have spent many sessions talking together. Sometimes we do this over the phone, but we tend to work best when we are moving. We go for a run, a hike with the dogs, or a walk on the beach. We view this as a time to truly generate content, think of possibilities, and work through difficult ideas. We do not bring paper or pens with us when we talk it out. We find the impulse to “write it down so we will remember” gets in the way of the creative process and limits us. This helps us listen to each other and to think outside of the box. Whenever the going gets rough in our process, we get outside and get moving. It works every time!
The Power of Feedback
We do not typically write – physically put words to paper – together. Once we have ideas for an article, post, or chapter, one of us takes a shot at a first draft. We use Evernote to keep the process collaborative at this stage. We have a notebook for each project we are working on, and it is shared between us so we can check in with each other and provide feedback along the way. We always include a voice note with any piece of writing we share with each other. It helps us to hear each other’s thinking – purpose, reflections, and questions – before we read the draft. We leave each other a voice note in return as well as comments in the document itself with track changes. While the feedback in track changes via google docs is helpful, we find hearing each other’s voices helps bring clarity to the feedback process. We even leave ourselves voice notes at the end of a writing session and then listen to our own voice to help us get back into the process and remember where we left off. The quality of one’s voice triggers memory, feeling, and purpose in a way written notes do not. Voice notes have been a game changer for us in our writing process.
We do spend some time setting the stage for our longer writing sessions. It sounds trivial, but creating a space that feels inviting is motivating. We always have chocolate, flowers, candles, a variety of pens, paper, mentor texts, tea, coffee and yes – wine – on hand. Writing is not for the faint of heart, and it is important to have the tools you need, the rituals you expect, and the treats you want ready and available.
Just as we plan to work, we plan to celebrate. We set small goals for ourselves and decide what we will do once we meet our goal – antiquing, cross-country skiing, a walk, cooking, dinner out or even a nap. Setting real but achievable goals helps us stay productive and reminds us we are making progress even when it feels like we are writing against the tide. It is important to recognize the work being accomplished in the process even when you may not have a product to show for it. It is easy to focus on what is not done yet … scheduling time to celebrate helps us embrace the joy in the process.
Thank you – TWT and Slice of Life community – you continually support our process through providing a purposeful, meaningful and authentic audience to write with weekly. You are an inspiration to us – thank you for all you do!
Tammy Mulligan and Clare Landrigan are staff developers who are still teachers at heart. They began their work together twenty-four years ago co-teaching in an integrated first and second-grade classroom at the Eliot Pearson Children’s School in Medford, MA. They now lead a private staff development business, Teachers for Teachers, and spend their days partnering with school systems to implement best practices in the field of literacy. They have co-authored two professional books, It’s All About the Books and Assessment in Perspective. You can find them online at TeachersforTeachers where they blog about books and the art of teaching, and on Twitter @ClareandTammy.
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION (from Stacey):
This giveaway is for a copy of It’s All About the Books. Many thanks to Heinemann Publishers for donating this prize. For a chance to win this copy of the book, please leave a comment about this post by Sunday, June 3rd, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Wednesday, June 6th. Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.) U.S. + Canada mailing addresses only for the book.
If you are the winner of this book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – CLARE AND TAMMY. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.
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