This girl loves…being inspired to write.

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The song that started it all

“Writers plan.”

“Writers use dialogue, inner thinking, and precise details.”

“Writers elaborate and add additional scenes.”

“Writers craft powerful leads and endings.”

“And most importantly, writers WRITE!”

These are the mantras I use to explain writing to my sixth grade language arts classes each day.  Maybe if I keep saying it they will eventually get the point, I think to myself.

As my students busily typed on their laptops or put pen to paper in today’s class, I watched as each of their stories unfolded.   A month ago this was not the case.  Heck, a day ago this wasn’t the case.  My students, obedient as they are, could not seem to get their ideas down on a page.  Call it writer’s block or the fear of failure, something just was not clicking for them.

Today there was a noticeable shift.  Maybe all of the writing we have been doing for the past six weeks is final paying off, I thought to myself.

Then I got to thinking about my own writing habits.

I’ve been “writing” a book for years now.  I say, “writing” but what I have been doing mostly is talking about writing.  I haven’t put pen to paper, or in my case, fingers to keys, in almost six months.  Sure, I’ve blogged here and there.  I’ve journaled occasionally.  I’ve sent countless emails.  I just haven’t really written.

Until today.

Seeing my students writing  furiously today inspired me to do the same.  I keep preaching about how writing everyday is going to build their stamina as writers but I refused to see how it was also improving my own.

In starting this writing program with my students, I’ve made a promise to myself to publish a blog once a week.  So far I’ve made good on that promise.  I’ve taken chances publishing some of my pieces.  And in the process, I’ve published some great pieces and some not-so-great pieces.  I’ve taken the advice I’ve given my students and I’ve written. 

Today that writing paid off.  I was able, with ease, to write another scene in my book.  I used the same strategies that I’ve been teaching my students–dialogue, inner thinking, precise details–and it totally worked for me.  After my furious writing, I was left with a scene I was pretty satisfied with.  My dialogue flowed and was realistic.  My inner thinking conveyed what the character’s true thoughts were.  And my precise details took me back to that exact moment in time, the day I visited Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Maybe it’s the online Shakespeare class I started only last night.  Maybe it’s the song, “Moth’s Wings” playing on shuffle every now and again.  Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the writing I’ve been doing each week that gave me the confidence to go back to my book and begin writing again.  Whatever the case may be, it feels good to “write” again.

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This girl loves…feeling inspired.

 

A glimpse of beauty

A glimpse of beauty

Inspiration comes to me in many forms: a touching passage, a beautiful scene, a soft melody, a lingering hug, a flavorful meal, and sometimes, a great movie.

Today I saw two movies that inspired me: The Hundred-Foot Journey and Begin Again.  Each of them affected me in a different way.  The former made me hungry for not only food, but for life.  The latter made me hungry for inspiration.

Since beginning a new writing program at my school, I’ve been keenly aware of my thoughts and their potential stories.  Seeing Begin Again, I wondered why I was so affected.  What was it about this movie that moved me like a passage from one of my favorite books?  What was it about this movie that sent chills down my spin; chills like the ones I get after hearing a Broadway singer belt the lyrics to a finale?  Then I had it.

It was real.

The movie felt tangible.  It felt achievable.  It gave me hope that I might one day inspire others.

I’ve spent my life hiding in the shadows of my own life.  I’ve stood idly by as others took their place in the spotlight.  I could excuse my behavior by saying that I was shy and slightly awkward, but it would be just that, an excuse.

I’ve decided that it is time to stop hiding.

There is so much I want to share with the world.  I want to share my passions and that is why I write.  I make mistakes and I write again.  I know that it’s not about creating a masterpiece that stops the world in its tracks.  No, it’s not about that.  It’s about practice and building endurance.  It’s about writing, writing, and more writing.  Then, maybe one day I’ll be that great writer I want to be.

One day I’ll write something that does stop the world in its tracks and what will I do then?  I’ll do it again.

 

This girl loves…inspiration.

My ah-ha moment!

My ah-ha moment!

Beep, beep, beep.  The alarm sounds.  I am torn from a restless sleep.  It’s Monday and I still have five more weeks until spring break.

UGH!

Now don’t get me wrong.  I love what I do.  I’m a teacher and everyday is a little different from the one before which makes for some pretty interesting stories.  It’s just that waking up on command, being “on” for a classroom of children, and no bathroom breaks get a bit tiresome when the days are so sunshiny and warm.  Talk about spring fever!  I’ve got it bad.

Or so I thought.

This morning I walked in and greeted my fellow third grade teammates.  One had recently returned from a writing conference and was full of wonderful ideas to share.  This same teammate has inspired me to read some blogs and books from a few notable professionals in the field of reading education.  I’ve found all of what I’ve read to be the boost I’ve needed in my own reading classroom.  Then, this morning she begins to talk about writing.

UGH!

Here I thought I was doing such great things with reading and now she brings up how we should be doing more writing!  Am I ever going to get it right?  First, we’re not doing enough reading so I’ve set a standard with my students where every free second they have  should be spent reading.  Don’t ask me what you can do when you’re done, I say, because the answer is READ!

I am a competitive person and when someone says we’re not doing something my first reaction is to prove them wrong.  So, I got to thinking.  I have this entire day with my students (a luxury only afforded to me on Mondays as every other day is broken up with “specials”).  I had planned to move on with our lesson on the Three Branches of the Government into the Judicial and Executive Branches but decided to scrap that and focus on some writing.

My students had participated in a discussion about how a bill becomes a law since we were studying the Legislative Branch.  They had watched the classic “School House Rock” video, the same one I watched as a kid.  They had also listed the steps on a post-it as their ticket out the door.  So, knowing all of this I figured I would have them write an informational paragraph describing the steps a bill takes in order to become a law.  I told them that they needed to “Inform, Explain, and Remind” in this paragraph.  The inform was stating a topic sentence.  The explain was explaining the different steps.  The remind was to remind the reader what they were writing about using a concluding sentence.

They all began to write.  The classroom immediately fell silent, the only sound being that of their pencils.  Before they handed in the paper I asked if they had “DOL’d” them (checked for capitals and punctuation) and then I read them.  What I found was a lot of restating of the list we had gone over the previous week.  So, I conferenced with them individually, asking them clarifying questions.  What is a veto?  Why does Congress have to vote again if they already voted on the bill?  Easily able to explain their thinking, I asked them to add it to their writing.  In doing so these students really learned how a bill becomes a law.  It wasn’t a set of steps they memorized and regurgitated for me.  They can actually explain, in writing, the process a bill takes.

Now I know we read to learn but I never thought about how we also write to learn.  I’ve been teaching for 11 years and today I finally got it.  Today was my ah-ha moment.  I love teaching for this reason alone.  I love that a tired, spring-fever-feeling teacher can come to school and feel inspired.  I really do have the best job in the world.

This girl loves…resolutions.

Making progress on my book!

Making progress on my book!

 

My brother inspired this post.  He has resolved to run a half-marathon and is actually doing it.  He has  inspired to me in his effort to set and make progress toward achieving a goal.  In one of his blog posts he wrote about his difficulty in finishing projects that he starts.  I could relate wholly.

I often begin projects, run out of steam, and quit.  It’s not a quality I particularly love in myself, but it’s part of who I am.  I am a dreamer.  I imagine myself doing all of these wonderful things and set my sights so high that it’s nearly impossible to follow through.

I started a book two summers ago.  My goal was to write a story I wanted to read.  From what I’ve read about writing a book, that is the first step-write the book you want to read.  At first the writing came quickly.  I had characters, a setting, and a basic plot.  I knew where I wanted my protagonist to go as I wrote the ending before the beginning.  I find working backwards, as when solving a mathematical problem, usually works best.

After making significant progress I lost my momentum.  I used my book as a way to escape the world and last year was so wonderful that I never felt the need to escape.  This was great for my mental health but not for my writing.  This summer I found I desperately needed an escape and the writing magically came back.  I set a goal, and for most of the summer, I made progress.

School started, I moved, and the writing stopped.  I promised myself I’d come back to it on the weekends or over the holidays but a week into the winter holidays I still hadn’t started.

Until today, that is.  I woke up, knew I had nothing planned, no place to be, and no one to report to.  I stopped thinking about everything except my book.

That is when the writing came.  All of the sudden I was writing furiously, finally finding inspiration and the rest of my story.  I’m not going to lie and say that the book will be finished anytime soon, but I will say that I am off to a promising start.  I want to finish this book.

Correction…I will finish this book.