One of my favorite cartoons features a young woman, obviously nervous, seated next to a white-suited, white-haired caricature of Samuel Clemens. Above her head floats a thought bubble,“‘I want to be a writer,’ she
thought, mused, considered, said aloud, to no one, to herself, giving voice to the idea passion she had always had in her heart but had only recently discovered in her hand head.”
I also always wanted to be a writer, but the responsibility of writing stopped me. Writing was a task that I took very seriously. I had to write papers for courses I took. I had to write letters-personal and professional- and I had to write memos for work. Writing was a product that needed to be perfect. As a result, my writing duties had stifled my writing passion.
However, sixteen months ago I started this blog to share the ways I had increased the number of books in school classrooms. During the first month of entries, I wondered if I would have enough materials to write about on a blog about used books in class.
I am almost embarrassed to admit that what I have discovered is that writing is less product and more thinking. Sadly, I was an English teacher who required writing and encouraged students to write regularly in class, but who did not cognitively understand that writing is really a recording of thinking. I was always interested developing (and assigning) the prompt and collecting (and correcting) the final product. I did not fully understand the necessity of thinking as the most critical part of the writing until I began to write myself.
Now, as a convert to writing as thinking, I am using this post to encourage others to write in order to think.
October 19-20th, 2012 will be the National Day of Writing. The National Writing Project (NWP) is encouraging people to contribute to “What I Write” on their website:
What do you write or compose? Blog posts? Poems? Videos? Grocery lists, computer code, or song lyrics? Whatever you write, on Friday, October 19, use the hashtag #whatiwrite to share your compositions with the world as part of this year’s National Day on Writing.
National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has links on their blog for people to read what authors say about why they write. The NYTimes Learning Network also has a page on their blog asking, “Post what, you ask? Well, could be…
- Thoughts about what you write, whether it’s poetry, short stories, school essays, computer code, love notes, song lyrics or Facebook updates.
- A link to some writing you want to show others.
- A photo or drawing that illustrates something about writing, or illustrates something you’ve written.
- Thoughts about things you’d like to write someday.
- Notes on your writing process.
- Thoughts on the role of writing in your life in general.
- Advice about writing.
- Links to good pieces about writers or writing
So, on Friday, October 19th, I will have my students create lists of topics they want to “think” about, topics* they want to explore in writing over the course of the year. We will collaborate on a master list using a Google doc that we can revisit over the course of the school year. I want my students to learn how to write, but more importantly, I want my students to learn how to write so they can think. I want they to feel free to write without constant assessment. I want them to write and read what they write to understand what they think. Hopefully, in this process they will discover that writing is not an academic responsibility, and that good writing is really good thinking. And I will imagine thought bubbles over their heads as they write.
Share the hashtag #whatIwrite.
Fabulous. This made my night. I needed to read this and to hear your thinking. Through your thinking, my thoughts are inspired. Thank you.
Yes, lovely post–writing is thinking. Of course, this truth explains why writing is both so difficult and so immensely rewarding. Joan Didion claimed in her amazing essay “Why I Write,” “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” Exactly! Thanks for the post.
Thanks for the Didion quote (she is so ahead of the thinking curve!)…also, glad to read that you are “back”!