The last Cultivating Readers and Writers post focused on reading with children and developing a positive experience from reading to them. I'd like to focus on writing as a social experience this time. Do you consider yourself a writer? I think there are many people who consider themselves readers, but it seems like most people are hesitant to consider themselves writers. I, personally, don't believe you have to be published to be considered a writer. I don't necessarily believe you even have to share your writing with anyone to be considered a writer...although, what is written is meant for an audience and meant to be read, so I do think that putting somewhere for someone to read does make it more authentic.
That brings me to the idea that writing is a social experience. While it can be super scary to share your writing with someone, it is exciting to hear what someone else has to say. Thinking back to myself as a young writer, there are two experiences I thank for my confidence in my writing. The first memory is from 5th grade when I was in Miss Corn's class. I remember Miss Corn explaining that she was working on her Master's degree and part of her project was keeping journals back and forth with her students. Sadly enough, I have no idea what I wrote about in my journal, I think we just wrote letters back and forth to each other. What I do remember is going out to lunch with Miss Corn at the end of the school year when she asked to use my journal for her project and wanted to thank me by taking me out to lunch. It was so exciting for her to pick me up from my house and take me to my favorite pizza place. I remember the sense of pride I had in knowing that my writing was valuable to her.
The other positive memory I have with writing comes from high school writing workshops. When I sit through teacher workshops now that promote the implementation of writing workshop it just makes sense to me. I think that's because I participated in writer's workshop throughout high school and it just makes sense to me. I loved writing in high school. It was always fun for me to share my writer with my peers and to get their feedback. My teachers did an amazing job at making sure we all respected each other when we did peer conferencing. Because of that comfort level, I knew my pieces would be read with respect and comments - good or bad - would only be advice and would only be meant to help me improve as a writer. Don't get me wrong, there were times when I soooooo disagreed with a comment that a reader made, but it was still important for me to hear what that reader had to say and to decide if there were any merit in what they were saying or if I trusted my own judgment.
Because of these positive experiences with sharing my writing with others, my confidence in my writing has grown. It's kind of a funky, great cycle really: write - share - improve writing - write - share - improve writing. Eventually after going through the cycle your writing does just get better the first time around because you recognize what you need to do to be a better writer. If you don't write and if you don't share your writing it's hard to improve.
I still get giddy when I know someone is going to read what I have written. I've been through the cycle enough times to be excited to share with others. What about you? How do you feel about yourself as a writer? Are you excited to share what you have written or does it make you cringe to think of sharing your writing with someone? As a teacher, how do you help students feel comfortable to share their writing? Please, share!