Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post on Tuesdays or you can just head on over there to check out other people's stories. For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here.
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My writing life has been up and down and fast and slow this school year. I entered a contest called Pitch Wars in the fall and was chosen to be mentored by two amazing women. I worked like crazy to revise my young adult novel to get it ready for the agent round. Since then, I've sent some queries and have even received my first...and second and third rejections. It's still hard to believe how far I've come from the NaNo wannabe I was in 2012.
This July will be the fourth summer of Teachers Write and I'm so thrilled to connect with the amazing Teachers Write community again. One of my fellow Pitch Wars contestants, Tara Sim, did a post on 10 Things About My Writing based on a post from Clarissa Harwood and I thought it would be fun to play along. The Sunday Check-In here at TMT during Teachers Write is all about reflecting on how things are going and figuring out what works best for you. So in the spirit of going all meta just for fun, even though it's not summer yet, here are 10 things I've learned about myself as a writer over the past few years.
1. I find characters all over the place. Usually I find someone intriguing and then I start to build his or her story, adding little pieces as I collect observations until I have a clear picture and am ready to write. I love seeing a person and trying to come up with a story for him or her. People are fascinating to me.
2. I let ideas grow before I let them out of my head. I collect my characters, piecing together who they are, what their stories are, how their stories intertwine, and then I start to free write. But it takes a while of them rolling around and growing like snowballs before I let a story out of my head.
3. I may actually have too much fun describing. I've noticed there are times when I over-describe something and need go back and revise down. I just love the beauty of words all bundled up in pretty sentences.
4. Writing helps me process. When I read The Doodle Revolution by Sunni Brown, I recognized that I'm a word doodler. I like writing words and tracing over them, or writing something over and over again. It helps me remember but also lets me work through ideas and better understand concepts. Whether I'm writing fiction or non-fiction, it usually helps me refine my thoughts.
5. I can write anywhere. As a kid, (and still) I can read anywhere. It doesn't matter if there's a party going on, a rollercoaster rumbling by, a jet plane landing right in front of me, I can zone it all out and stay in the moment. This works for me as a writer, too. Sometimes, I like to drown out the sounds so I can concentrate but for the most part, I can block out distractions and zone in.
6. Even though I haven't experienced everything my characters have, I try to build in the feelings I've had and link them to my characters. I love that writing lets readers into the characters' brains. It lets them truly know what it might be like to experience something novel and capturing those feelings means a lot to me as a writer.
7. Blank pages don't scare me. A couple of years ago on a writing retreat with Brenda Power of Choice Literacy, I picked up a card that said, "Bring it on, blank page!" and it was probably one of the most empowering moments as a writer. To know that I can face anything and that there is no reason to be scared by a blank page helped me see more clearly how to embrace sloppy copies and to cherish the process.
8. I couldn't do it without my friends. I'm so thankful for the Teachers Write community and other writing friends I have discovered along the way. I'm so inspired by other writers - other creators - people who do something they love, who share their work, who own the process, who help motivate me. I'm so grateful to not have to meander through this on my own. I realize now more than ever just how critical it is for me to have writing buddies to feed off of. At the same time, I have friends who read what I'm writing and have really pushed me to think through my writing in such a different lens.
9. The longer I have to write, the better. I used to try and sneak in snatches of time to write and it still works for me but I really love being able to get lost in my words. To just block everything else out and give myself to drafting of revising or whatever it may be. I could get lost in writing for hours if only I could stop time...
10. Mentor texts truly rock. When I started this blog, I knew I loved mentor texts and I used them all the time with students. But now I pay attention with so much more intensity and specificity. I can spot what techniques an author is using and I think about how they might have made a word choice or other craft move intentionally. And any text is helpful to me, from fiction novels, to non-fiction picture books, poetry, prose, any genre, it all helps me and I love having amazing models to learn from.
What I love about writing 10 things about my writing is that it's just me. Maybe you'll read this and see how we are similar or maybe you'll read this and think, I could never do that or I never thought about that, but I think that's the beauty of sharing. Each of us needs to recognize how we work, what works best for us, what motivates and inspires us. And then what if we had conversations with students about what works for them? What if we helped student writers see that there isn't one right way, that their 10 things about writing might be totally different and that would be awesome?