Saturday, July 16, 2016

Experiments with Quick Writes

Quick write from this morning brainstorming this blog

I think I may be a convert.

Last week I committed to doing a daily 10-minute quick write for at least the next week in my blog reflecting on Penny Kittle’s Write Beside Them. I knew that to make most effective use of a writer’s notebook with my classes, I had to be personally committed to their effectiveness for me as a writer. Penny is. 

However, I’ve resisted assigning myself yet another writing task, feeling I write enough already in my personal and professional life—from prayer journal, to Goodreads reviews, to missionary newsletters, to curriculum guides, to this professional practice reflection blog. 

No wonder every time I’ve started the year determined to have students use a writing notebook, it’s turned into more of a reading journal.

But what I learned this week is that 10 minutes a day for rehearsing or brainstorming something I’ll be working on later is actually productive—sometimes as a step toward producing a piece I have to as a professional who writes, and sometimes as writing teacher insight into the experience of writing (joy, frustration, possible topics, process, tips, etc.).  

These were my topics:
  • Monday (teaching topic): Why I’m doing this notebook
  • Tuesday (interest topic): Stories of partings past, or, handling (or not) good-byes (triggered by a friend’s Facebook post and what a theme this has been for me in my life; Kittle said if you fee the energy, write about it…)
  • Wednesday (curriculum topic): Rehearsal for a subject area guide for the technology department (one of my projects this summer as my school’s curriculum coordinator—a 1 1/2-page guide for each of 12 subject areas)
  • Thursday (interest topic): List of things I learned this year (inspired by my daughter’s post)
  • Friday (curriculum topic): Rehearsal for weekly photo blog on school website
  • Saturday (teaching topic): Brainstorming what to write my weekly professional practice reflection blog on (see photo)
What did I learn? In a nutshell, quick writes are not just more writing on top of what I already do. They give me ideas for, traction on, and insight into what I already have to do. 
  1. Ideas: The school blog I wrote on Friday after a 10-minute rehearsal in my notebook was the fastest and easiest school blog I’ve ever written.
  2. Traction: For the technology subject area guide I rehearsed about on Wednesday, in between doing a lot of research and filling in the spaces on the template, it was helpful to have a free-zone to just begin articulating emphases I’d perceived and questions I still had.
  3. Insight: Some days I wrote short (first day getting started; technology subject area guide with original thinking and looking up a definition). Some days I wrote long (with the good-byes topic I definitely hit a vein I’ve thought about before, individual stories I’ve told before, but I was energized by trying to put it all together. Not done, but I did go back another day and add a note about another thought. Put it on my list of topics to write about someday). Students will do the same. Don’t worry. Help them understand why. Some topics, you know you’ve hit a nerve you need to write about (good-byes, what I learned this year). They might make good quick writes for students to find out whether it’s something they need to write about. 
I will keep doing quick writes for the rest of the summer, and I think I’m a lot closer to a place where I actually will have students do them regularly—to get ideas for, traction on, and insight into what they already have to do.

Try a 10-minute quick write per day for a week for yourself and see what you learn. I double-dare you.

P.S. I also learned that sometimes life interrupts writing. As in this photo below. The corner of a notebook you see is my writing notebook. This day’s 10 minutes were not uninterrupted. And with the adrenaline overload I had going, it was hard to get back to the writing even after the spider was long dead. 
The moment itself captured on camera (notice writing notebook in lower right corner)
...and captured in my writing notebook!

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