#SOL Back in the Saddle…of Writing

“Wait, what day is it?!”

A week off from posting following the Slice of Life Challenge in March, and some wacky schedules at school…including yet another snow day…threw me for a loop. I found myself last Tuesday night with no post, no easy idea, and no energy.

Could I have drafted a post on Monday–the snow day?

Well, technically, yes. But (as I’ve posted before) something about posting less frequently seems to raise the stakes. If you’re only going to see one thing from me, I really want it to be good. To top that, sometime during the March Challenge I read a post about branding blogs. The post suggested that for maximum impact a blog should have a single, relatively narrow, focus. On reflection, many of the blogs I enjoy do have that kind of focus. Mine tends to be rather more eclectic–books, writing, coaching, cute kid moments at school, my own kids, etc. Again the pressure seemed to mount.

The result? No post.

I imagine the writing malaise might have lasted longer had I not received an invitation. For two years I’ve been working with the Connecticut Reading Association’s (CRA) conference committee. As a result of connections I’ve made through CRA and my (somewhat erratic and eclectic) blog, I was invited to write a monthly blog for one of the local CRA chapters. This past Saturday we met over coffee to brainstorm the vision for that blog. In an hour we’d branded the new venture and generated ideas for a year’s worth of posts. Granted, some of those may never come to print and others may overtake them, but the pump has been primed. In the past three days I’ve drafted three posts.

I’m back in the saddle, as it were. Refreshed by the break, reinvigorated with fresh purpose and a guaranteed audience, as well as responsible to a firm deadline for sharing a complete draft with┬ámy collaborator, I’m armed with three of the most significant weapons in the arsenal of a writer–audience, purpose & a deadline.

Granted, this new opportunity is more high stakes than a weekly post. Only once before have I had to submit my writing for approval (aside from casually writing for my college newspaper). And we’re hoping to build an audience that includes literacy professionals across Connecticut. We hope the blog will help teachers to feel connected to CRA throughout the year and not only for the annual conference. Like other blogs have done, we’re hoping to grow a digital PLN.

This leaves me thinking about what we ask of students with regard to writing. Are we ramping up the pressure or taking it down a notch through the formats and frequency with which we ask them to write? Do we do them a disservice by giving them only a single chance at a type of writing? (Hey kids, write your best speech, how-to, literary essay… Ready? Go!…Oh and you can only try it once. Good luck!) Do we leave room for voice and choice? Yet do we also help them beyond the dreaded blank page? Do we offer students a guaranteed or potential audience (beyond ourselves)? And is there a genuine purpose for their writing?

All of these factors were critical in returning me to the craft and practice of writing. How much more so must they be for young writers who may not (yet) feel like real writers? Or for whom writing is done only for someone else (the teacher)?

Let’s invite our writers in. Let’s give them purpose to fuel their (perhaps nascent) passion. Let’s figure out how to provide genuine audiences for that endorphin rush from feedback. Let’s give them enough opportunities to write that one (or six) bad drafts aren’t devastating, but just part of the process.

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If you’re interested, be on the lookout for monthly blogs about literacy at betruetoyourselflifeofliteracy.wordpress.com┬ástarting May 1 and on the first of every month.

*See? Now you know the plan and I’m responsible to you & my collaborator. Can’t back out now. <Yikes!>