#WhyIWrite

Today is #NationalDayonWriting, and it has been a whirlwind, hectic day, with paper everywhere, pens scratching, and keys clicking, which means it has been a very good writing day. I celebrated with my students, doing writing activities in all my classes, including a “Tweet” board in the alcove outside my classroom for students to post #WhyIWrite messages.

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Though many were hesitant at first about the assignments, they tried, and succeeded! The sophomores are well on their way to creating detailed descriptive paragraphs about the view from their windows. The juniors are crafting beautiful poetry about a treasured object or love (or as it seems, love gone wrong). And the seniors are are producing academic prose–a mini-research paper on Pygmalion by the Brit Lit group and an analytical essay on symbolism in “The Japanese Quince” by the AP group.

In Brit Lit, we read some critical excerpts yesterday and took notes, so today, the students were asked to bring in one article from a specific database on their chosen topics. Then I walked them through the process of taking notes from an academic article. As they continued on their own articles, I walked around the room offering help and encouragement where I could. Then one student asked me, “When are we going to write this paper?” I said, “We’re doing it now, aren’t we?” Yes, writing is a process. Yes, it’s worth it. Yes, I think they’re getting it. 🤞

The only thing I was not able to do with my students was write with them today, but I could at least talk to them about what I am writing. When one student apologized for her poem being long (maybe a dozen lines), I told her not to worry; I had written a poem this week that went on for two typed pages.

And then I had a prep period which I used to put some finishing touches on said poem and submit it. 🤞

On the way home, I tweeted about #WhyIWrite: “Fueled by coffee and imagination, I can go anywhere, be anyone, anytime, including myself, now.” But that tweet only covers a part of it. Writing rejuvenates me, frustrates me, engrosses me, and exhilarates me. I write to live. I write to communicate. I write to teach, and I write to learn. I write to understand and to be understood. I write because in the beginning was the Word. Writing is in my soul.  

Wishing you a happy National Day on Writing, and many more happy writing days to come!

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Being of Two Minds

Today is supposed to be my writing day,  or rather,  my writing afternoon,  and I’ve done a terrible job of it.

I had an idea for this post, wrote the title, and started writing. And the whole thing morphed on me. It turned into something else entirely than what I had planned, than what I had envisioned.

But that’s okay. I know that happens. While writing stories, I’ve had minor characters demand more attention. They really wanted the story to be about them. And usually they are right. Don’t argue too much with the flow. So, I changed the title and kept writing, letting the ideas take me where they may.

Unfortunately, where they took me today was down a dark alley where Lord Complaint and Lady Grouse waited for me with cudgels. Luckily, I had clicked “Save Draft” rather than “Publish.” When I got home and opened my computer to “put the finishing touches on,” I found a draft that whined about all the things I let get in the way of my own writing today. Because that is the crux of it: I let things get in the way of my writing today. It was me. Not any of the errors, errands, and complaints I enumerated in the now deleted post. It was me. I knew full well what I was doing with each choice I made. And I made them. Okay, maybe I’ll cut myself some slack on the delayed subway. That wasn’t really my fault. But, had I stuck to my original plan, I probably would not have been on that subway anyway, so…

Which leads me to what this post was supposed to be about in the first place: Being of Two Minds.

I had a really good writerly summer this year. I wrote, I revised, I submitted. I made writing my priority, and it was good.  The only thing wanting is the acceptance, but it will come. I have to believe that.

But now…

Oh, but now. It is September. And a new school year has begun with new classes added and familiar and favorite ones stripped away. But still, the girls are great, trying perhaps (!), but great, and the literature is rich and powerful. There is so much to be teach and to learn. I really do still love to teach and where I teach. But teaching requires a different set of skills from writing. Perhaps it is because I gave myself permission this summer to “be a writer” that transitioning back to “being a teacher” has been difficult. In the past, I think I have been a teacher who writes. Now, I am trying to be both a teacher and a writer, and as anyone who has taught, especially high school English, knows there is always a long “to do” list for the teacher: grade this, grade that, grade the other thing and the other thing and the other thing, create this test, create that project, photocopy this, photocopy that, make time for this student’s make-up quiz and that one’s, run this club, run that club… Need I go on?

This school year’s task (above and beyond the first one of serving our students well) is to learn a) how to grade smarter (actually, this is a perennial goal of mine) and b) how to let go of the teacher brain on writing days. The teacher brain plans, teaches, corrects, organizes, and frets. The writer brain needs more freedom to create and space to think and concentration to revise, not to mention time to research and submit.

I am of two minds which I think can coexist, if I let them. If I don’t allow the teacher brain to dominate simply because she is the one who makes the money (well…). And, as a bonus, giving the writer brain her time and exercise will ultimately help the teacher brain do what she needs to to: convince these young ladies that a life in literature, whether as a writer, or more likely, as a reader is worth it, is what makes us human and able to connect to those who are different from us.

Luckily at least, the teacher brain and the writer brain agree on a nice glass of wine.

Rejuvenation 

I have come to love Central Park,  or at least my little corner of it. At the end of long day of teaching and grading, there it’s really nothing so rejuvenating for me as a walk through the park. The diversity of life there brings a smile to my face — and I’m not just talking about the flowers and trees!

Welcome to today’s episode of Belvedere Fountain:

Sleeping with Poetry

I give my students packets of poems

With the publication data: cover pages, copyright, pages with the

Poems themselves;

Poems printed off the Internet too,

With URLs and website info and even where

They were first printed.

And they studiously flip the pages, scouring them

For every tidbit of information they need to create

A Works Cited page–properly formatted and informationally complete.

And when they finish, they put their heads down

On the desks, exhausted, and bored.  Some

Stare off into space; others twiddle their thumbs, waiting

For the packets to be collected. So they can do something else:

Read a book, doodle a drawing, study for the next final exam.

What they do not do,

What they do not even think to do,

Is read the poems.

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