This is HARD!

I am a writer.  I am not a published author, but I see myself as a person with an opinion, something smart to say, someone with ideas to express.  I do that is many venues, and one of them includes following along in each writing cycle that I ask my students to go through.

Usually this is a relatively easy task.  I’ve been writing for myself for years now, and have TONS of ideas to choose from in my many Writer’s Notebooks.  And as long as the genre is something non-fiction, I’m ok.  And then this time every year a fiction cycle rolls around and I start to get nervous.   For whatever reason, writing a story is just not something that comes easily to me.  It seems that every story I do end up writing has something to do with Santa Claus or Christmas.  Other than that, I got nothing.

So when we got to Thursday–drafting day–I should have been ready to sit down with my students and use my own seed idea and nurturing notes to draft, I had a little confession to make instead.

“THIS IS HARD!” I started.   I had to admit to them that I was not ready to draft.  I had to tell them that, in fact, I didn’t even have a start of an idea.  I had NOTHING!  Ok, not nothing–I did have 7 years of Writer’s Notebook filled with ideas, but nothing that spoke to me and said, “Hey, Mrs. Bearden–write a story about this!” or that could easily fit into a Santa or Christmas story (that’s all I know how to write about, remember??).

So on drafting day, instead of drafting, my job was to figure out my idea.  But I needed help.  And I knew just the people to ask. 🙂

As my students worked on their own drafts, then, I went back to work digging through my notebooks to find anything that I was at least a little bit interested in.  I wasn’t really even sure what I was looking for, but I did end up finding a couple of cute stories from my childhood.  Then one about my little brother.  And another about something funny my husband did when he was a kid.  And so finally my wheels starting turning…

After a few minutes, I at least had a start:

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What I came up with was an idea to incorporate many stories from my childhood (about me, my brother, my dad, my husband) into one, set in an old house I used to live in. The trouble was figuring out how to do that.  All I had to do was just begin to mention all of this to my students and within about 10 seconds I had at least 10 possibilities–one that even had a link to Christmas!  Love it.

And do now my hard work continues as I try this weekend to come up with my draft.  And believe me, it’ll have to happen, regardless of how impossible it feels to me now.  They’re counting on me.  I ask them to do it, so I should be able to do it, too, right?  I’ll let you know the answer to that when I figure it out.  Hopefully before Monday. 🙂

What’s your favorite genre to write?  Is there one that’s easier or harder for you?  Tell us about it!

No One Died Today!

But boy, I’m sure some of them were worried about it.

Yes, of course, I’m kidding!  Let me tell you about what I mean. 🙂

I wrote yesterday about the writing cycle and our recent celebration.  Well, if you remember the way the cycle works, after you celebrate, you start over again with a new project.  In this case, we’re working on Personal Narratives.  We spent a couple of weeks collecting memories and other stories in our Writer’s Notebooks and then picked a seed and nurtured it with some help from our writing partners, and then today we were ready to draft.

Here’s the basic directions about drafting in our classroom:

Now, the first time through the cycle we didn’t do it exactly this way, and maybe I even let them just use the version that was collected in their notebooks.  But this time I made them do it “right.”  At least my right way.  And that’s when they thought they would all die….

I started our mini-lesson with a reminder about how I wanted them to draft, and then showed them how to do it with the seed I had chosen.  It was based on this entry from one of my Writer’s Notebooks:

So, as they watched and listened, I read, then reread my piece to get the big idea of how I’d written it in my head.  The second time I also paid attention to the parts I really liked and knew I wanted to include in my draft.  We talked about how those were parts that we read and said to ourselves: “Man, that’s good…”  Those are the highlighted parts.  Then I read it again, and had most of what I wanted to say ready to write down.

And that’s when it got scary.  Now, I’ve told my kids that I wouldn’t ask them to do anything I haven’t done or wouldn’t be willing to do myself.  And writing is an especially good example of this idea.  I always go through the cycles with them; we write together and make mistakes together and grow together.  So today, that meant that we would draft together.

We sat in front of our ActivBoard, and I was ready to write my story using the document camera so they could see it.  And I’m not kidding when I say that I TOTALLY understood the feeling that kids get when you ask them to do things like this for the first time.  I really didn’t know what I was going to write and I had an audience waiting for me to write something fabulous!  Luckily, my kids understand how to be gracious and go-with-the-flow with me, and so they supported me through this struggle.

After what seemed like forever, I had a rough-draft version of my piece.  And just like I told them might happen, I think I liked most of the new version better:

And so after we reviewed the steps: read, reread and highlight the “Man, that’s good…” parts, reread and then start writing, I sent them off.  DON’T EXPECT THIS TO BE PERFECT, I tell them, because we’re going to work on revising it anyway.  Give yourself a break and just write your story. 🙂  But still, there were so many frightened faces in the bunch; I really did think someone was going to throw up over these directions I had just given them.

I think, though, because they trust me and they trust the process–no matter how different or crazy it seems at first–they did what I asked.  The next thing I saw were kiddos all over the room drafting in a way they never had before, and not dying.  They really were able to do it, and it wasn’t as hard as they thought it would be.  But even it if was, that was ok.  “Hard is good!” is another saying I have, because, as we have also talked about many times before, “hard” is an opportunity to learn and to do things that amaze you.

Maybe the two best things that came out of today were this:  one friend came to me and told me that even though this was hard, she was glad that she’d done it–the version she wrote today was even better than what she thought she could do; and another friend–who usually has trouble finishing a draft quickly, and who was a little unsure about this process when we got started today–finished his whole rough draft, and was able to do it in a fabulous way! I even got chills when I read a line from his piece because it was that good!

Today was another example of many that I hope I teach my friends this year: just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.  Hard is good, and many times when you persevere through something you first think is a challenge, you are amazed at what you’re able to do.  And that amazement motivates you to keep going and do something amazing again! 🙂

What have you done recently that amazed you?  How have you persevered through something hard? Do you have a writing story to share with us?  We’d love for you to share your thoughts!