Thursday, June 30, 2011

Are You a Writer?

As an elementary school teacher, I have spent eleven years teaching all content areas. Math, social studies, science, and of course reading and writing. Without any hesitation, I can say that teaching writing, to third graders was my all time favorite thing to teach. Seeing their eyes light up as I passed out the writer’s notebooks that I bought special, just for them. Seeing their brows scrunched together as they jotted down thoughts each morning in their notebook. Seeing their shoulders touch as they met with a peer to conference or revise. Seeing the pride in their face and in their body language as they sat in the author’s chair to share what they had written that day.

My angle was to immerse them in the life of a writer. Brainstorming, drafting, conferencing, revising, and understanding that a piece is not started and finished just because Writer’s Workshop time has ended. The idea that writers draw their inspiration from everywhere and anywhere. The notion that you can explode one single moment into a piece to evoke a feeling in your audience.

But now, as I prepare for a summer that I plan to use to re-evaluate myself as a blogger and as a writer, I wonder. Do I practice what I teach? Do I follow the suggestions of Ralph Fletcher, my favorite source on writer’s notebooks?

The short answer is no. I attempted a writer’s notebook of sorts on my iPad. I have an app where I take notes, jot down ideas. But not regularly. Sometimes I will even snap a picture of something inspiring. I have even been known to use the voice memo function on my phone to record an idea. The truth though is that I do most of these things so that I do not forget, since my brain has trouble remembering whether I took my medicine, much less an idea that I had while driving down the road.

In most cases, I end up not even going back to the ideas that I jotted down. Typically, the ideas just swirl around in my brain until I am able to get to the computer, hastily typing away, until a piece is finished. I re-read my writing, sometimes even out loud and edit (or try to). Occasionally I have even shared pieces with my TRDC writing partner, but usually at the eleventh hour.

So, does all of this mean that I am not a writer? Does one have to follow the process to consider themselves authentic?

I imagine that there are those that might debate this. And maybe, just maybe, I am naive or quite possibly presumptuous to consider myself a writer despite my lack of procedure. Maybe it is enough to participate in the act of writing to be authentic. To be considered valid.

Then of course I wonder. What magical ideas or thought provoking sentiment could I develop if I did truly spent the time, each day, jotting ideas down in a notebook. What would happen if I truly invested in the brainstorming, or the valuable process of conferencing for ideas instead of just mechanics?

I am not delusional enough to believe that doing these things would make emails from editors start magically appearing in my mailbox. Being a writer takes time. It takes effort. It takes of words, love of the story, and love of oneself to believe that it can happen. But still, I wonder.

Do you use the writing process? What makes someone a writer?


Elena is a mom. A wife. A teacher. A cancer survivor. A blogger. Life has always been a roller coaster, a bit of a magic carpet ride. There have been downs, like being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease at 23, having a bone marrow transplant, getting divorced, and suffering from depression. There have also been ups, like the birth of a daughter, successfully running two marathons, and meeting & getting re-married to the love of her life. Get to know Elena at Ciao Mom.

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