"Writing is communication, yes, but that communication begins internally. The Self communicates to the writer and the writer communicates to the Self. The gist of that communication is what the writer communicates to the world. When the world is allowed to interrupt too early, the Self withdraws. Showing our writing to hostile or undiscerning readers is like lending money to people with terrible fiscal pasts. We will not be repaid as we wish. Our work will not be valued. They will respond in dangerous extremes, "brilliant" or "awful." (Long experience teaches that extremes of any kind, high or low, are dangerous to the writing process because they create self-consciousness.)"
This really hit home after a discussion this afternoon in our regional ELA forum around editing and revision strategies. The teachers were great to share ideas and questions but it made me think a great deal about when in the process we start asking students to edit or revise their work. Are we sometimes in a rush to get a "finished product" that we don't allow ideas to linger, the words to ferment and really come of age? Do we ask students to do peer editing without really having them understand what they are looking for in someone's piece of writing? Do we focus on too much when we review student writing - rather than narrowing in on one or two elements that their skills and egos can handle?
I also started thinking about how often we share our own writing with students. Not just the finished, polished piece but the evidence of our own struggle with the writing process. The notebook full of crossed-out words, arrows, and frustrated scratch-outs so deep they wear a hole in the paper. Do we share on a regular basis that writing is hard? Do we let them edit our work or suggest revisions?
I wish that I could say I was better at this - at showing that I struggle with it just as much as they do. But somehow, when I am invited into classrooms or work with teachers I am considered the expert. I need to be better at sharing my writer's notebooks and rough drafts - at saving the drafts and modeling the reflection that went into each revision. And most importantly, I need to show how we can avoid the dangerous extremes of "awful" and "brilliant" in order to really value writing.