A few years ago, I was honored to have received the privilege of certifying as a Teaching Consultant for the National Writing Project. This organization works hard to get teachers writing about teaching, writing about learning, and writing about how writing directly, and positively impacts, the learning of their students and themselves. It was during this time of writing and learning that I learned the value of writing and reading immersion.
Our summer institute lasted four weeks. Each day was busy from breakfast time until dinner time. We wrote, we listened, we wrote, we learned, we wrote and we responded to that writing. We responded to our writing as well as the writing of others. We found safe places to share our writing within our individual writing groups as well as with the large group as a whole. Friends were made in this place. Writing was created in this place.
We often spoke of fluency in writing. At that time, fluency and I were strangers. Fluency, as we will be defining it in this class is the ability to get what is on your mind down on paper, or what is in your head on the computer screen, or just plain being able to write what you are thinking readily and easily. This does not come easy for most and it may not come easy for you. I struggled, but after gaining some good amount of fluency through a four week writing intensive course, I now crave it and easily fall into it. Now, this does not necessarily mean that my muse, a Medusa meets Athena sort of gal, is always sitting on my desk moving my thoughts onto the computer screen faster than Zeus can throw a lightning bolt. I have learned that much of writing, and the writing fluency necessary to improve my writing, is discipline based. I must earn good thinking and good writing. I earn this by practicing.
Writing is more than an academic discipline or skill. Writing has a set of rules. Writing well is something beyond the rules and thinking on paper takes discipline. Writing is like any other activity you might want to get good at or want to succeed in. Writing takes practice.
I like to knit. I took up knitting to relieve stress, to afford me a positive, creative and portable outlet in a very hectic life. I can knit anywhere and do. When I decided to take up knitting, I visited a local yarn shop owner for advice. She said I must practice and sent me home with a pair of bamboo knitting needles, some cheap yarn and a pattern book of knitted washcloth patterns. She assigned that I knit one washcloth in each pattern then return to select yarn to knit a sweater. As I worked my way through the book I gained knitting fluency. I began to knit faster, learning new stitches with each pattern. Where I started out slow and unsure, I graduated to a place where I did not worry about slipped stitches and mistakes to be undone. As I became successful, I wanted to knit more and more often. It became easier to sit, pick up the needles, and knit, knit, knit. I no longer have to think about knitting while knitting. It just happens.
Writing may seem as daunting to you as knitting was to me, but writing can be learned and writing well can be an obtainable goal. I challenge you to think about the things you are good at and how you became to be good at those activities. Was there thinking involved? Repetition? Discipline? Think about the things you are good at that matter to you or important goals in your life. Did you need discipline to accomplish these goals? What did that discipline look like? I am asking you to sit down and write. Every day. Freewrite for ten minutes, or so, a day. You will be amazed at what a bit of writing practice will do to improve your thinking and your writing.