Teacher-Writer, Writer-Teacher

One of my student and I have been chatting about writer’s block during this quarantine time period. We’ve emailed and chatted through an online discussion board. Yesterday’s post, got me thinking about my own writing process, some of the things I have shared here, and the insights I see on social media. While I look to Don Murray (whose ideas I share with my students) and Anne Lamott for writing tips from one writer to another, today I gravitated towards the website Writers Write. Below is the note I left for them. I am waiting for their response. I’ll keep you posted with the outcome. I replaced the student’s name with writer.

Hi Writer,

Thanks for letting me know. I would love to read your electronic sheep philosophical rant! My mind wants to hear what you have to say. I am curious if you have a feeling of what you want to write? 

I have some tips that have helped me keep going with my own writing. See what you think–

Oftentimes, I too have ideas floating in my head but have trouble getting my ideas onto the page especially when ideas are loosely coming together. I use the notes app on my phone and speak into it. My ideas flow onto the page as if I am still thinking about them. When I am done speaking, I email the note to myself so I can store the quick write or draft in my writing file. Usually, the writing that I compose on my phone is messy with typos and completely unpolished. But, it helps me so much. This letting go of a “perfect” draft reminds me of Jennifer Neilsen‘s (author of All the Bright Places) advice:

Be willing to write garbage. Don’t worry about being perfect because there’s no such thing. I know many talented writers who don’t finish projects. The reason? At some point they become paralysed by trying to make it perfect. You have to be able to write garbage and leave it alone. Once you’re done with a draft, you can go back, dig in, and make it all sing.”

The  other thing I have to do is force myself to push through. I try to write every day (either professionally about teaching and writing or creatively about sci-fi and dystopian stories). Even when I have no ideas–or I think they are bad ideas–I read a page in a book and force myself to write off of something. I look up writing prompts and force myself to write. 

I looked up some writing tips for you, and Jodi Piccoult‘s 3 stood out to me. I will also remember these:

  1. “Read a ton. Reading will inspire you. It will also help you find out where you belong as a writer.
  2. Write every day. Treat writing as a job. There is no such thing as waiting for the muse. If you want to to be taken seriously as a writer, take writing seriously.
  3. Do not stop in the middle of your first book. Finish it. No matter what. All writers go through this. It’s more of a fear of not being good enough that makes you stop. You think, ‘What if I’m not as good as I thought I was?’ Do not allow it to stop you. If you don’t finish that first book you’re making life difficult for yourself.”

The last thing I’ll share are some writing prompts (Links to an external site.). While you may think they are terrible writing prompts, the hope is that one of these terrible, cheesy writing prompts will get you going and help you  find your own creativity and originality. Whatever you write, you’ve written it! Your SSW is a chance to play with language and to take risks and to have fun. For me–and for you–it’s not so much about what you write, but the process you take to write it. Everything you have shared this quarantine is the true spirit, struggles, and triumphs of every great writer.

Keep going. 🙂  Let me know if any of this helped you or not. I can share additional tips: similar or different. Also, I might be able to pass some of it along to  other writers in a similar spot.


Mrs. Foley

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