As teachers of writers, it is important to be teachers who write. How can we make this happen? Begin by making the act of writing a good habit. Put it on your schedule like you would schedule time for the gym or time to participate in a book club. Just be sure to set some time aside. Here, it’s important to be realistic. Perhaps start with 5 to 10 minutes to write in a writer’s notebook – an observation, a response to a quote, a description of a person or place you know well. Then you can try to add some time several days a week – work up to 20 minutes or more over the first month or so.
Where do you like to write? Do you have a favorite spot in your house to read? There’s probably a favorite spot to write – you may not have discovered it yet. When do you do your best writing? Will you accomplish more in the morning or after dinner? I still like to draft in a notebook and return to my laptop for revision and editing after the first draft is handwritten. My notebooks all have interesting covers and are spiral-bound so when I open them up, they always lie flat on my desk or table. What else will spur you on or comfort you? A cup of hot tea? A sweet bun? A wedge of dark chocolate? Do you like background noise – t.v. or perhaps your i-pod playing your favorite tunes?
It’s okay to move away from your writing, but be sure to return to it. Writers need experiences and time to reflect on how they are growing and changing. Sometimes, getting up from your desk and taking a walk may be all you need to return to a piece of writing with great gusto! Writer’s block is easily resolved by spending a good deal of time thinking about what you will write before you pick up your pen (or tap on your keyboard). Your students will also have less problems if their first draft has already been rehearsed in their heads. And remember, you won’t love everything you write. It won’t all be good, but you’ll be exercising your writing muscles and developing a habit. That’s important!
Planning what you will write is well worth the effort. Heart maps, neighborhood maps, memory chains, and expert lists can help you get started. If you are writing a longer piece, an outline or chain of events may help you write a piece in sections. It is not always true that you start at the very beginning. When Rose Cappelli and I drafted Mentor Texts: Teaching Writing Through Children’s Literature, we decided to begin with our chapter on beginnings and endings, the fourth chapter in the book. We jumped around to write what was compelling to us at that time.
Set some writing goals for yourself. Plan how much you want to write by a certain date. Challenge yourself to try a new form or a new genre. Your goal may be to share your work with a peer or with your students. Perhaps you want to try to publish a best-practice article in a journal such as PAReads: The Journal of the Keystone State Reading Association. You’ll have a deadline to meet! Try to stick with your plan and achieve your goal(s).
You can be a little selfish. Share how important your writing time has become with your family and friends. There will always be other things you could be doing instead of writing. Make your writing time sacred. Believe in yourself. You ARE a writer. Own the title. Make it part of your identity – how you express yourself, how you show your love, how you learn about the world and about yourself. Writing is a way to tell your story. Each day is a new page to write on.
Write, Write, WRITE!