“Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.” Sir Francis Bacon (Thompson, 2013, p. 56)
In our book club meeting on Tuesday, October 21, the discussion of writing and writer audience was a focus. Chapter 3 of Smarter Than You Think by Clive Thompson (2013) is titled “Public Thinking” and it struck a chord. You see, I have memories of wanting to write as a child. I was blessed with an active imagination and I desperately wanted to put the fantastic imaginings in my head to words. But I was told that I wasn’t a writer. I was a dreamer, a singer, but not a writer.
I originally started this blog as part of my “being brave” challenge. It has become, for the most part, the place where I discuss the learning I am doing in university, but I do still post reflections on my life and everyday experiences. I didn’t expect anyone to read it, not really, but I started to get messages from friends who checked it out, and they called me a writer. I honestly didn’t know how to take that. To me, I am still not a writer. I worry over the possible grammatical errors and verb tense mix ups. I know that I am breaking many of the rules taught to me by my English teachers and “real” writers would shudder. But as I share my thoughts, opinions and ideas, I realize I am starting to become more aware of Liane the Writer. When I read this chapter and discussed it in book club, the moments of ”writer realization” were many.
I will fully admit that my writing apprehension has passed into my teaching. I most likely do not do as much writing as I should in my classroom; the focus has been more on the oral language and reading components of the curriculum. We write, but not daily, not in books, and not always in conventional ways. I do more writing with my students now, but it is not the subject area I am comfortable with. I know I am not alone in this. Reading levels are often the push in districts, but perhaps it is time for a change. Listening to the writing opportunities my classmates are providing for their students is inspiring. Blogging is a large part, it seems, of how they write with students, but in book club, they discussed using twitter and texts with their students. Listening to this discussion made me wonder about the validity of text language. I am an unofficial member of the spelling police, and I have been one of the “worrying about how our language is going downhill” crowd. However, after reading this chapter, I think it will be interesting to see how our language evolves with our new writer culture.
The idea of audience was another little a-ha moment for me. The big question of who we are writing for and how are we writing for them has always been difficult for me. As a teacher, I wonder if my students are slogging through a writing assignment to please me or to record their own ideas. I wonder if I am pushing these wee 4 and 5 year olds to write too soon. Is this digital age going to allow them different ways to express themselves for a wider audience but not necessarily through written words? As a student now, I often write for the class, and while it may be a reflection on my thinking or learning, it is still written for my class, for my professors. Is that affecting how I write? Absolutely. But when I write for them, I find some people are reading my blogs who are not connected to the coursework or to teaching. After book club, I am starting to rethink my audience and how i should engage with them.
The last little a-ha moment I had from book club this week came as almost a hand to the forehead; a classic Homer Simpson “D’oh!” moment. A question asked in the book, “So how is all this writing changing our cognitive behaviour? For one, it can help clarify thinking.” (Thompson, 2013, p.51) Well, of course it does, I thought to myself, but why have I never seen that in my own writings. It is now as plain as day to me that I have narrowed my focus, refined my thinking by writing, but I really didn’t clue into it until now. I have always struggled with journals, but as I look back, I write in them when I am troubled, confused or emotional. I don’t tend to blog daily, but I do when I am passionate on a subject, stressing or having minor epiphanies (like today).
Thank you, book club. You gave me a lot to think on, and a lot to write out. Because apparently, I am a writer.
Thompson, C. (2013). Smarter than you think. New York, New York: The Penguin Press