Sunday, June 3, 2012

writing

so i was perusing some of my favorite blogs (yes, that's what i do for fun on a saturday night when everyone else is asleep.  it's like the beginning of a conversation with someone where the other person speaks first and is able to do so without interruption and with editing so the words come out the way they are intended.) and i came across a new post over at wonderfarm. it's about writing.

i really like what she has to say, both in this post and the one prior.  it coincides a lot with what i have learned from one of my homeschooling mama friends and from a dear friend i have known since college whose writing and opinion i hold in high regard.

so diana has writing time, pretty much every weekday.  and she loves it, for the most part, particularly because she is usually the one who chooses the time and place and topic and she can maintain her space as an environment conducive to her creative process.

it's been an interesting and sometimes difficult journey for me to get to this point.  i remember how we would fight over her writing.  i'm not talking about the focus on penmanship or spelling or grammar; i'm referring to the process and product.  she's a bright lass, so how difficult could it really be for her to write a nice little paragraph based on a prompt i gave to her?  quite difficult, as it turned out.  we had tried one of the classical education curricula for writing for a little while, but it soon fell flat with us.  having excerpts from wonderful stories wasn't enough for her, she wanted the whole stories themselves.  the approach and style of the workbook was intriguing and comfortable to me - it made sense, it followed a structure, it told me what to do with her each day.  it just didn't fit her, and after the novelty of it wore off, it became a struggle and a chore, not what we wanted our lesson in writing to be about.

i admit i had more than a little apprehension about our charter school's annual prompted writing assignment, and i didn't handle it well.  i figured i could just condition her to get comfortable writing on demand.  i had her sit down every day at her desk for a specified amount of time and engage in "some part of the writing process," even if that meant staring at a blank page until something was ready to come out of her mind and onto the paper.  hah!  what was i thinking?  some days it went ok because she had something to write about, but all too often it resulted in resistance.  again, not what we wanted for this experience.  i cringe when i think of those times and how much i could have turned her against writing altogether.  i'm so glad we have gotten past that.

when i was open and ready to ask for and consider the suggestions of the two friends i mentioned above, i think things took a turn for the better.  i backed off a lot and relaxed my expectations and removed pretty much all of the structure.  now writing time is still on the daily to-do list, but only because it is important enough that we want to make sure we allow the time for it amongst our other activities and lessons.  diana has the freedom to type a document on the computer, correspond via email, post on my blog, hand write in any of her ever-growing collection of notebooks (of all sizes, shapes, and styles), and use pencil, pen, crayon, marker, or feather quill and raspberry ink.  she has written letters, created advertisements, edited newspapers, and written and sometimes illustrated poetry, short stories, and series of short books.  she has been inspired by music and has even composed songs along with lyrics.  she is always free to keep her writing private, share it with whom she chooses, or destroy it.  she has expressed interest in self-publishing and envisions writing as a career.

now that's more like what i want for her!

and when she has those days where the writing just doesn't come, when it is so frustrating and unsatisfactory to her that she throws her hands up in despair, i send her to her books so she can read more of what she loves, learn from the authors she admires, lose herself in that magical limbo of time and space when absorption in a story is so complete that the rest of the world simply does not exist.

two books about authors/writing that are currently at the top on her list are:

five pages a day by kehret

spilling ink: a young writer's handbook by potter and mazer

about the second book - after reading through part of it, diana said to me that it is the first book she has read about writing that is really useful to her.  it doesn't talk about what to do so much as it relates what has worked and hasn't worked in the experience of the authors.  it offers ideas but leaves it up to the reader to decide what might or might not work for them.  i think i may just have to read it myself.

and while writing this post, i came across this site.  yet more fodder for my late-night reading, and more cheerful than the book i'm currently reading, amy tan's the kitchen god's wife.

i am happyer to be at home today because my daughter said, "that's why i keep you around, to help me find the things i've lost."  i like being her navigator.


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