Friday, January 21, 2011

Teaching Writing-- Easy. Writing-- Hard!

I teach writing to HS and college students, which often illuminates the writing process for me. It is almost shocking to hear advise that you dispense so easily to others, that are so difficult to follow when writing by yourself.

The first obstacle many students face is writer's block. I tell them begin at the rough draft stage. "Did you brainstorm?" I'd ask. I say it is too early to worry about grammar. Brainstorm, writing in fragments, bullet points, the easiest, simplest way that'll allow you to put your thoughts down. Secondly I tell them, to spill their gut. This is definitely not the time to judge your own writing, that's for later. There will be ample opportunities later to revise what you wrote but first you have to put something down. The goal at this moment is to be creative, be free, go for the wildest ideas you have and dial it back a bit or push forward even more. You feel scared and insecure? That is normal. Professional writers have told me personally that they're terrified when they write.

I think the proper mindset can be summed up by a quote I heard today (which I'll paraphrase), "There can be no self-esteem without a sense of progress." If you expect perfection from the get-go, you will have nowhere to go, your mind will go sterile. Humble yourself and find joy in the process itself.

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