Sunday, March 8, 2015

Labor of Love



I don't have a desk. Okay, I do, but it is home to my sewing machine and not really a conducive place for writing, crowded as it is with snips of thread, straight pins, and pinking shears. Instead, I write each day at our dining room table, either well before the sun comes up or well after it goes to sleep. These are my hours. The quiet time when my little boys are snuggled into their beds, and there is time to reflect and not just react. 

I especially appreciate this daily blogging challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Instead of keeping my writing to myself in my Writer's Notebook, I have this opportunity to write daily, to share daily, and to connect daily. I encourage my students to connect and share in similar ways, but then often find that without this daily deadline, my own blogging gets pushed to the bottom of a to-do list whose items I know I will never be able to completely check off. My blog is pushed to the back of the line behind responding to parent emails and providing feedback on student essays and arranging for Skype sessions with authors and calling local museums to arrange for speakers and responding to more emails. I write daily, but the writing that renews my soul - reflective writing and creative writing - often times is left as an unwritten monologue playing through my head while I attend to more immediate concerns.

This morning a request appeared in my inbox to share my reflections on when, where, and why I write as part of the weekly National Writing Project iAnthology series. And so I've spent some time today mulling over why I let the writing that I am truly passionate about go unwritten much of the time. I don't have a good answer to this question. But I do have a simple answer.

It's hard.

This is the writing I care about. I care about weaving a narrative, pulling threads of ideas together, making a creative and hard-hitting point. But this takes time. I am not someone that can pound out a blog post in minutes. I read over and write over each sentence. I write in stops and starts, slowly moving forward like a child on a rocking horse, ever leaning forward to an imagined finished line. And so far, I've only written five paragraphs, that is if you can really count my fourth as a paragraph. But I've considered why I've let that sentence hang there alone.

It's hard.

And now I'm at seven paragraphs. But if it takes me this long to write this short piece, I have to remember what it might take a student as of yet less experienced than I am at blogging to share his work publicly. Check the widgets to the right. I've been at this since 2007. And I know that this is hard. I must remember that this is hard no matter what age or level of experience you bring to writing. To do it well, writing is a labor of love, but it is labor. It is work. Writers must be given the space, the time, the opportunity to work at the craft. In order to create a narrative worth reading, students need time....writers need time to put in the work.

And, sometimes a deadline helps, too.  

4 comments:

Red Emma said...

Deadlines always help me. I had been going to a writing workshop once a week all winter, then the writing teacher went out of town for a couple of months. I stopped writing. But I started this writing challenge to force myself to write every day, and I've done it so far. I enjoy writing, but it is hard, and I need to be forced to write by a deadlines.

I like how you structure your piece, with the single-sentence "It's hard" grafs, then the explanatory grafs.

Dogtrax said...

Writing takes thought and effort, for sure, and we all write at different paces (see our classroom of students for evidence, right?). I was interested to follow you here from iAnthology and then back again, toggling between two spaces, and thinking about your reflection as a writer. I'm glad to have you in those overlapping communities.
Kevin

The Real Nani said...

I nodded knowingly during your first paragraph. I too have a desk that has been overtaken by my sewing machine, and stacks of fabric. So, I write wherever I can find a comfortable spot away from the kids. Sometimes, that means in my notebook, on my bed. Sometimes, that means on my laptop on my couch after the kids have gone to bed or when they are otherwise preoccupied.
I admire your careful consideration of the words you put forth. I tend to write off the cuff after mulling it over in my head for awhile, then go back and make changes if I can find the time. I think your way leads to cleaner, more powerful writing. It is something all students should learn-- taking the time to ponder word choice and other decisions that are part of the writing process.

mjb said...

Jen,
You articulate so well what happens in our daily lives: “I write daily, but the writing that renews my soul - reflective writing and creative writing - often times is left as an unwritten monologue playing through my head while I attend to more immediate concerns.” Your lines resonate for me personally and they also prod me to think of my students and their “unwritten monologues.” Do I provide time and space for writing that renews the soul – I’m not talking religion, just that spirituality, the metaphysical feeling that arises when we make time and space for the unwritten monologue to be writ, to be shared (to be verbs worked for me here :-) –- community, epiphanies, magic results
Thanks for a fabulously thought-provoking post.
Mary

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