#WhyIWrite – Those of You Who Write Will Understand

October 20, 2015 — 4 Comments

What, How, and Why do you write?

The National Council of Teachers of English, The National Writing Project, The New York Times Learning Network, and the Teaching Channel want to know.

Today, Tuesday, October 20th, 2015, people everywhere are encouraged to respond to the prompt asking What, How, and Why do you write as part of the Seventh Annual National Day on Writing.

Reponses to will be shared in in a “tweet up” during the day using the hashtag #whyIwrite.

I have, of course, my own reasons why I write, but first I would like to share two statements made by the senior media correspondent for CNN, Brian Stelter at a Q & A session at the Inspire Expert Event at the NY offices at About.com (10/17,15). This event brought together the experts that write for the About.com website.

stelterBrian Stetler has been a media reporter for The New York Times and the editor of TVNewser He currently hosts the CNN Sunday morning show Reliable Sources.

In this Q & A session Stelter’s two statements on writing stood out, not because they were surprising, but because they were not surprising, especially for any of the other writers in the audience.

His first statement addresses the Why and How of the National Day of Writing prompt:

“The only way for me to sound smart on TV is [for me] to write all week long.”

This first statement speaks the importance of writing as a process for learning. Because I am an educator, I am expected to promote writing everyday at every grade level and in every subject. Because I write,  however, I can attest to how much more I learn about a topic when I write about that topic. Practicing writing is no different than practicing math facts or practicing for an athletic competition. Writing more improves writing.

Stelter’s second statement addresses the What of the National Day of Writing prompt:

“When I am writing and producing the stories, I discover another great story that has not been written yet, and I can’t wait to get it started.”

This statement by Stelter supports writing as a process of discovery, of finding out what one thinks, of enthusiastically embracing new ideas, of living with the creative disruption of ideas.

When I taught the Advanced Placement English Literature class, the timed in class essays that students drafted would often begin with one idea (thesis) in the opening paragraphs that would mature and change midway through the essay. Somewhere in the middle of this rough drafted essay would be this creative disruption-a new idea- like the discovery that Stelter claimed he found in writing. In these drafts, each student wrote his or her way into the new idea and (usually) developed a more confident position as he or she wrote.

Such an essay would conclude making a point different from the original thesis, a surprise to students who discovered a common experience- “I didn’t know what to write until I wrote it.” While this in class writing exercise from my students produced a series of poor to average drafts that needed revision, there was evidence of great thinking on these papers.

That is what writing is. Writing is thinking on paper.  Brian Stelter explained that thinking. Writers understand that thinking.

So What do I write? I write about education.

How do I write? Daily (mornings are best!)

Why do I write? I write to know what I think.

Happy National Day of Writing!

4 responses to #WhyIWrite – Those of You Who Write Will Understand


    A terrific posting. Thank you. I became interested in what writing could do for my students back in the late 1970s in gr. 5. For many years I made writing the heart of my classroom along with figuring out a way “around” the basal 3-tiered group system I had to use, in order to add reading and eventually decades later, poetry as the heart of my classroom. (In between I became a Nancie Atwell/Donald Graves/Lucy Calkins workshop teacher (on my own, with my own studying, until a new literacy coordinator arrived and dictated a new approach….) I always felt that the kids had more “power” as writers; it was up to them to create something from the blank page and their own mind. It was terrific fun back in the very early 80s before workshop had become a practice used more widely. own I have not been a great planner of my writing. I love the drafting and the flow and then I come to know what I have figured out and “see now.” Of course I can do the Harvard Outline, a web and other pieces of planning, but I love what you wrote about your AP draftings. I get that. Your piece spoke to me and would it be ok to share it on my FB page? (My inlaws lived in Hamden.) I am Janet Clare on FB. (Some day I hope to write 3 different books I have in mind. I just need to make that my priority.)


      Sorry, Janet, I have been very busy WRITING!! (Unfortunately, it has been common assessments for my school district.) I am delighted you liked the piece. Please feel free to share it. How great you are inspired to write books….and I know all about priorities…which makes it even more flattering that you took time to comment as well. Thank you!


    I write when I’m able, and I’m writing a good deal more now than I was several years ago thanks to you and to my husband, Jason Courtmanche, Director of the CWP at UConn. You both inspired me to write with my students, which led to me doing more personal writing, too. You, Colette, inspired me to begin a blog with my students, and that has forced me to struggle along side of my students to produce work that I’m willing to publish online. Two summers ago, I attended the Connecticut Writing Project’s Summer Institute for teachers, and I’ve been writing with a writers group since. Writing helps me think, process, and react to the world around me. Thank you for inspiring me to write more often.

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