I am in the midst of leading the Morehead Writing Project’s first ever Online Winter Institute and as part of our community building process I asked the participants to identify their goal or wish for this journey. I was both excited and saddened that several identified refreshing or reigniting their passion for writing. I’m excited by this goal, because this is the very heart of National Writing Project work from the initial entry via the NWP Institute to the writing marathon that weaves together so many NWP sites and events. But I am also saddened as a writing evangelist and ancient writing teacher that our education system has done so much to destroy the love of writing in both students and teachers. I am also saddened because I have been there myself. From my earliest memory I have always wanted to be a writer and my entire professional career has been centered on writing from working as professional writer to teaching writers, but there have been times in my life when I fell out of the habit of writing for myself and lost the joy and wonder of it. These are the three strategies that helped me rediscover and hold onto my writing joy. If you worry that you have fallen out of love with writing then I hope you will try these strategies to reconnect and if you have found your way back then do not be afraid to share your strategies. We owe it to ourselves and our students to both love and be the thing that we teach.
Changing My Classroom Approach
My connection with the National Writing Project brought personal writing back into my life after a long stretch of professional writing combined with motherhood had led me away from any sort of creative writing, but each summer of writing would eventually give way to the inexorable demands of academic writing and teaching with only the brief intermissions offered by NWP events. However, a variety of influences led me to write and share with my students in true writing workshop fashion. I had often done this from time to time but several years ago I began making this a regular practice and it changed everything for me as a writer as well as a teacher. I’ve written before about the role that bell ringers play in my writing workshop classroom, but I have overlooked how important they are to me personally as a writer. I write with my students and model the sharing I hope to see. I make myself vulnerable to my students in ways that many have never experienced before and it creates a stronger community bond but also forges writers. Whenever I have remembered to feed the writer in me as well as in my students the rewards have been tremendous.
Centering my own writing experience in the classroom was key, but two formative influences on that shift in my teaching were the #CLMOOC and #LexPoMo. Successive summers of #CLMOOC participation where I played and experimented with language introduced practices into my classroom and forever changed the way I think about writing and the teaching of writing. But most important it brought educators into my PLN who continue to challenge and encourage me in innumerable ways. To this day we still write together and they share words and images and concepts that always inspire me as a writer as well as a teacher. It was #CLMOOC that led me to find writing fun and creative and that was a gift without measure. The #LexPoMo community has also been important to my growth as a writer. I joined the community as a personal challenge to inspire me to write more poetry. While I still hesitate to call myself a poet I have grown tremendously as a writer over the last five years of my participation. One simple reason is that for the month of June writing and reading poetry in a community of other poets is a priority. During that time daily writing is a habit and I feel the responsibility to not just write but shape that writing into poems and share them with the community. I have known for a long time that consistent writing practice is key to becoming a writer and yet just as consistently forget to make it a practice of my own. However, #LexPoMo reminds me every year and for that alone I am grateful the community persists.
Becoming an evangelist
Changing my classroom practice and reconnecting with my muse every summer really helped me rejuvenate myself as a writer, but it was the pandemic that gave something magical — a community of writers. Writing communities have always been an important part of my identity as a writer from the newsrooms of my career as a journalist to the fiction writing groups that sustained me through my career as a novelist to the writing communities I have found with the National Writing Project. Much of my academic scholarship has revolved around the influence of these communities on developing writers, but I have not given those communities enough credit for their influence on me. I have loved the fleeting magic found at the writing marathons hosted by the Morehead Writing Project, but it has been the series of writing marathons (more details in this blog post) through the spring, summer, fall, and now winter of our pandemic that have connected me with my people. I have always loved designing a writing prompt, but exploring that concept with other writers is my favorite thing. I love nothing more than gathering a group of writers together to write and share whether it is on the campus of Morehead State University, in a Kentucky State Park, or via Zoom. The pandemic has taught me that the medium doesn’t matter — just the writers and the writing. While I may take breaks from time to time I don’t think I will ever again live without a community of writers.
Writing has always been an important part of my life, but finding joy in my writing has made all the difference in the quality of my life and my teaching. I wish you could find that joy too. Have you lost and found your love of writing? What helped you rekindle your love of writing?