LINES – CRAFTING A WRITER
At a recent late Saturday morning virtual coffee and brunch gathering, I realized that I had two types of friends. All five of us had indulged in breakfast burritos – filled to bursting with ingredients such as fluffy scrambled eggs, savory-sweet onions, zesty peppers, crunchy celery, zucchini, and spicy chili, sweet with a hint of cumin and garlic according to my friend Mary. As I looked around at the faces on the screen I realized that four of us were nodding in agreement having only ‘oohed and ahhed’ at the flavors, never describing this flavorful delicacy and finally and not until Mary described each ingredient that was listed we wondered how she knew what spices had been added to this take-out dish that made it so extraordinary. The rest of us looked around with something between confusion and amazement. “How did you know that cumin & garlic were the “secret ingredients,” we asked. “I’m not sure,” replied Mary with a shrug. “I guess I can just tell.”
What I decided I witnessed during this meeting became an important connection with my work in helping young children write. Just as all five of us could recognize that the burrito was “delicious’ and ‘flavorful,” most people can recognize when writing has “voice” and “lots of details.” I believe that cooking and writing are considered to be an art and a science. There are basic rules to each but also, a tremendous amount of room for individual creativity and choice.
Most people, me included, would agree with the notion that writing on your own outside of teaching/classroom time, even if it’s once in a while, will greatly improve your thought process and aid in putting ideas to paper. Writing for young children can be a powerful way to process ideas, reflections, and thoughts, whether one teaches one or not. What I do believe is that if the expectation of what we teach others about writing is changing- from the rigid structure of academic writing to the craft of writing – then so should our preparation.
The fact that I came from a writing background, combined with the fact that I spent several years studying early writing with researchers from Boston University lent a vision that propelled me forward in my own learning to become familiar with the smaller craft skills behind the writing. To really look at the art of writing itself and for noticing the craft of writing in order to see its strengths. I realized that the possible next steps in all levels of my own personal writing helped enlarge the tip-toe approach I had grown accustomed to while writing. My personal craft felt strangled by the fundamentals of teaching writing. I needed a fresh perspective that allowed me to fully dive in and create wonderful meaning from my galloping ideas. Now to get to work and finish those last few paragraphs, but first, another cup of tea.