Partners in the Process

We’re hunched over a table, sitting in chairs made for kindergarteners. The sun hasn’t fully risen yet, and the hallways are still quiet. There’s a typed piece, a draft, laid out between us. On that draft is black chicken scratch, the initial thoughts, and suggestions made by my writing partner, Dawn. One line at a time, we talk, listen, and question. Lightbulbs go off. New visions are created. Notes are scribbled. Clarity is gained for me, the writer, and hopefully for the audience.

This is my eighth Two Writing Teacher post, and the truth is, not all of the words I have shared here have been my own. Some of them, especially in my introductions, have come from my writing partner. Reflecting on my writing process, I realize Dawn’s important role in each writing phase. 

Exhibit A, is a text message exchange about this very post. When this idea initially came to me, I immediately texted Dawn to get her input. Our discussions, whether in person or through text, help me push forward with my ideas. These exchanges validate and reassure me. Then, I am energized and ready to invest more time in the piece.

Once I have an idea I’m going to pursue, I often make a rough outline of my plan or verbally share my structure with Dawn. This is usually a quick conversation where Dawn either says something like, “That sounds good!” or offers me a tip or suggestion that pushes my thinking.

The next phase, we call the brain dump. I let all of the ideas that have been swirling around in my head, fall onto the page. I send this very rough draft to Dawn for her initial thoughts. Dawn is a paper and pencil-person. She prints out my drafts and marks them with edits, revisions, compliments, and suggestions. We then meet in person to review her feedback before I’m ready to make my own revisions. 

As I revise and fix up my writing, I often text Dawn to thank her for an idea, give her a glimpse of something I tried that she suggested, or to get her feedback. It is a back-and-forth. If I want the best from my partner, it’s my job as a writer to be brave and open. 

Finally, I send my cleaned-up piece back for a final stamp of approval before setting my writing up to go public. 

Through this writing process, Dawn and I have learned so much about one another and how we work best as partners. Dawn shares that she enjoys being my thought partner, and I have come to rely on her feedback. There is a shared trust. I know she genuinely wants my writing to be the best it can be. We know each other’s strengths as writers. For example, I’m more matter-of-fact, and  Dawn helps me weave a story around the ideas I’m trying to convey.

We all have a process. We teach children the parts of the writing process. We encourage them to explore each piece of this process with a partner.  As I think about all of the ways my own writing partnership fuels me as a writer, I’ve wondered where partnerships come alive in classrooms? How can we help them to flourish? Here are some initial ideas: 

I know firsthand the importance of a writing partner in my writing process. I want all children to know this gift. Let’s provide opportunities and teach children the transformational role a partner can play in their process.

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