An interesting conversation ensued at this morning’s studio session, and although there have been many memorable moments over the last two short days, it’s this discussion that is lingering with me tonight.
“What makes someone a good writer?” I asked (leading with the “what”, naturally).
“Knowing who your audience is!”
“Writing fluently, and with good spelling and grammar!”
All good responses, of course. All of them informed by some of the work that we did yesterday, too. But then, someone shared a bit of insight that knocked me off my feet.
“People make us good writers,” someone shared, and I was more than happy to go down that road.
“What do you mean?” I asked (whatwhatwhat).
“I mean, like…..sharing our work with other people. That makes us better writers.”
Another girl nodded. “I like how we get to interview people to get more ideas about things we may not know about.”
She was referring to an exercise that we began yesterday and carried forward today. Two weeks ago, at our Communities for Learning retreat, we began our work together by defining our passions, our experiences, and our areas of expertise. We posted all of our work on sticky notes and shared them with the community so that we could connect with those who we were interested in learning from throughout the week. This was really helpful to me as a learner, and I replicated it for my studio kids this week.
Yesterday, they began to view each other as resources that could lend tremendous credibility to the work that they were doing. For instance? Read is a vegetarian. Sarah plays violin. Erika has been to Vermont. Andrew is a techie, and Chris has an incredible vocabulary. When they shared their strengths on posterboards that lined the back of the room, they began to realize how the collective expertise, passion, and experience of their group could inform their writing. Today, as kids began to develop characters, conflicts, and settings, they set appointments with other writers who had the information that they needed in order to include accurate details in their writing.
Julie has just begun babysitting, and she is in the beginning phase of developing a blog for other young sitters. As she is new to blogging as well, she was uncertain what to put on her page. Without any guidance from me, she went directly to the Post-It wall and started scanning through all that her fellow writers had shared there. Then, she started asking everyone in the group what they would find most useful as a reader of this sort of blog. An hour later, she returned to me with several pages of ideas and a huge smile on her face.
“I’m going to start babysitting this year,” Read told her. “I can’t wait to see your site! I’ll definitely be visiting it!” In that moment, a bit of a bond was formed.
By day’s end, I definitely felt a sort of cohesion between the members of each session, and it is showing up in their writing in ways I woudn’t have imagined.
“You can be a really good writer, but you can’t get better unless you get to know other people and learn things from them. If you don’t do that, you just sort of stay the same. You don’t learn anything at all,” one particularly gifted writer reflected this morning, and this blew my mind, to tell you the truth. It’s pretty easy to coast when you know that you are able to write well. It’s also pretty easy to dismiss the lessons that you might learn from those who are weaker writers than you may be.
“What makes someone a good writer?” I asked at the end of the day, when it came time to pen a written reflection. “What have you learned about growing as a writer?”
Here’s my favorite response:
I can become a better writer by listening to and learning from everyone around me. Even kids who don’t necessarily write as fluently as I do. Good writing ideas come from our experiences and our feelings and what we know. Everybody has experiences and knowledge that is different from mine. That’s how they can help me become a better writer.
In all honesty, that particular big idea never framed my writing workshop plans in the past. But this year, it is the common thread that runs throughout our days. It’s having a tremendous effect on the quality of every exchange that these writers have. It’s making me believe that it isn’t enough to write well. Maybe good writing is about more than ideas and content and fluency and organization. Maybe it has much more to do with community than I even guessed.