Slice of Life: Living the Writerly Life
We have been reflecting on the phrase “living the writerly life” and realize it has never meant as much to us as it does now. In the past year, we have written more and we are thinking about writing more than we ever have before. We have learned so much about what it means to be a writer and to live a life that supports daily writing. When we began our blog last summer we were truly worried that we would not have enough to write about. We literally began by outlining what we would write each month. A year later we have learned to trust the process and now realize that when you commit to writing daily you live differently. We now notice, question, reflect and respond to our lives differently. Everything we experience is now a possible piece of writing.
While we no longer feel the need to plan out every post, we realize that having systems and structures in place to capture and organize our writing has been critical. Here are some ideas that have helped us over the year:
List of Possible Topics
We keep an ongoing, shared list of topics. Sometimes we generate this list together and other times we add to it separately. If one of us is going to give a topic a go we put our initials next to it. When we have time to write we often begin with this list to get us going. Some ideas have stayed untouched all year while others remain for months and then one day call out to us. We do not commit to writing everything that is on the list. Sometimes an idea on the list sparks a different idea when we reread the list. We share this list in Evernote and Dropbox so we can both easily access it and update it. Often for us, the hardest part of writing is getting started and facing the blank page. This list has changed the writing process for us. We begin by rereading our list, reflecting, thinking and letting the idea find us. Then we are off and writing.
We both have Stickies on our desktop. We use these to capture moments that we might want to write about in the future. We often capture a word, quote, or image. When we use Stickies we are typically still unclear of how what we are capturing will transform into a topic, we just know this moment or idea has struck us and we do not want to lose it. Once it is captured we can go back to it and think about why we felt the need to get it down. These Stickies have inspired some of our best professional conversations. Through talking out these moments, ideas, images or quotes we clarify our beliefs and understandings of teaching and learning. It is so easy to lose these sparks for writing, but having a system to collect them has truly helped us.
After blogging for about a month we began to truly understand how audience can help you “live the writerly life.” We discovered that many other bloggers “host” topics to write about and this gave us a structure to collect ideas. We joined some of these weekly challenges. This gave us “deadlines,” topic ideas and genres to guide our writing. Here is a rhythm we fell into:
In these posts we share books we are reading and how we might use these books in classrooms.
Tuesday: Slice of Life
In these posts we share moments we have experienced and how they relate to teaching and learning.
Wednesday: Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge:
In these posts we have pushed ourselves to share more informational texts and how we might use them as mentor texts.
In these posts we share the celebrations of our week. We try to tie these posts to the brilliance we see in schools every day.
These weekly writing communities gave us the structure we needed to make our writing life consistent and predictable. We knew the types of things to be looking for in our “writerly life.” We found this incredibly freeing. We still had four days open so we could write about other topics as well. This balance really helped us.
If You Can’t Let It Go – Write About It
Lucy Calkins tells young writers to think about a strong emotion when you are generating topics. We have found that this strategy works well for us too! When we find ourselves experiencing a strong emotion about something that has happened in our lives we stop and think about the experience. When something lingers with us for days, weeks or months we know it is a topic worth exploring in our writing. Writing often becomes the avenue to work through difficult, frustrating or worrisome events in our lives. It is through writing that we make sense of what is happening around us and try to learn from these experiences as well. The response from our readers also helps us understand our strong feelings as our readers share their perspective on our writing. It is through this dialogue that we push ourselves to continue to grow professionally and become better teachers.
We have taught writing for years to elementary students. We have always believed that teachers of writing should write. We have always written for our students in lessons, but we realize now that by writing daily, truly writing for our purpose, we understand the writing process in a way we never did before. If you are thinking of taking on a writing project – do it! You will never believe how you will grow as a writer and a teacher of writing.
We hope our tips help you and we would love to hear about how you structure your writing life.