Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How I Feel about Writing

Writing and Me

While I was the University of Georgia, I had one professor who had a whole bookshelf of journals and books that were just his own writings. I remember sitting in his office and being impressed--and probably a little overwhelmed--that he had published so much. I wondered how many thousands of pages that was...how many words? 

As for me...well...you know, sometimes people talk about "books in heaven." This is not a religious posting at all, but if there was somebody keeping track of everything we've done and we get to see it after we die, then I would really like to see how much I've written. You know, like in "stack format." And if I think of writing that way, then truly I have written bookshelves upon bookshelves upon bookshelves of stuff.  Probably miles high.

I spend a lot of time writing comments on my students' papers...that is one form of writing that is quite significant for me. I spend a lot of time writing emails, writing interview protocols, writing summaries of articles I read, and summaries of data I have collected. I write lists everyday. I write agendas and powerpoints.  I sometimes write out exercise routines.  I'm also a big "cards" person; I love sending cards to my family. For a while, I was the "card specialist" for my church due to my love of writing cards.

And yes, as a gal on the tenure-track, I write a lot of articles, articles, articles. My personal strategy, which I just developed over this last year, is to name each document by the day. So, for instance, I might have "Gestures Article 10-29." And then I never save over it...the next day I just title it "Gestures Article 10-30." So that way, if I decide that I liked something that I had deleted, I can just go back to a previous version and find it again. This method of keeping track of my writing has almost changed my professional life. I make it a goal to write for publication (or for a grant submission) for at least two hours per day.

Some people might think academic writing is boring, and I get their point. I like to joke that my content literacy book will be the next "Harry Potter." Yeah, right. But this focus on academic/anlytical/informational writing hasn't always been the case in my life. When I was in the fourth grade, I remember writing pages upon pages upon pages of poems and stories. I remember that, during all of my eighth grade year, I spent time thinking of a story that I was really passionate about...it was a psychological thriller where the author had a split personality but didn't know it. I spent a long time working on it and crafting it, and I submitted it to my ninth grade Honors English teacher, who gave it an A- with no explanation. And then she gave the class a big long lecture about how she had never received such a dark and disturbing batch of short stories throughout her entire 30-year teaching career. 

That experience was actually pretty devastating to me, and took the wind out of my sails for writing fiction. But I still received good grades on my analytical essays and academic writing, and so now I guess I've channeled all of my writing energy into the academic route. 

What are the implications for my own teaching? For one, I think it's important for people to explain grades to people rather than giving them grades with no explanation. Second, I think that teachers have to realize that--right or wrong--their words carry authority for young students who are still forming their identities. So it's important that we use that authority carefully.


  1. I don't think it would be fun to write articles. The psychological thriller sounds very interesting on the other hand. :) I think that you have a good point about explaining grades, I appreciate that you put the time into doing that.

  2. I find it interesting that your experience with writing is similar to mine, and seems to be common with other people I talk to who love to write. Most of us usually got our start on poems and fiction writing when we were younger and then switch to more academic writing later on. It makes me wonder if that is just the nature of our education system, or more of a socializing influence. It sounds like, for you, evaluative comments by your teacher were a definite influence that pushed you in one direction. Have you ever returned to the psychological thriller, or did you just scrap it after that?
    I wonder if, as a teacher, I should incorporate more opportunities for students to write poetry and narratives in high school. I also wonder about common core's switch to incorporate more informational texts versus literature. Do these trends ltoward academic writing and informational texts limit students' creativity or reduce interest and engagement?
    I am impressed by your ability to sit and write every day for two hours, and actually think academic writing would be interesting and challenging.
    Thanks again for a great course!