I’m a little late, but here’s how I’m doing with my project.
It always feels a little funny sharing a work-in-progress. I read a post from ysolda on her fabulous knitting blog, about her qualms with sharing her designs-in-progress. She does share, saying, “Personally I think it’s pretty interesting to see a project build and gain some insight into the development process.” (And doesn’t the sweater she’s working on look gorgeous? Check out the post with the wrist detail. I want to knit that!)
I’m always fascinated with the creative processes of others. I’m hoping that some of you out there feel the same. If nothing else, if you don’t write yourself, what I share here might help you see what a messy process writing can be. It might help you understand your kids’ frustrations when they write.
Anyway, I don’t have a chapter this month. But I have an awful lot of stuff.
I kept starting new parts, but nothing came together. It was like trying to gather up a ball of bread dough that didn’t have enough moisture. I finally realized what was holding me back.
I had this idea–which I still like–that I wanted to write very short chapters for this book. Break down my ideas into small bits, followed with practical suggestions, so parents could pick up the book and consider one small idea at a time–or they could read several.
But here’s what I realized: I don’t write short. Gee, I’ll bet you’re thinking, no duh. Have you ever seen a short post on this blog? What I’ve always loved about the essay form is that it imitates the thought process. It takes off in unexpected directions, incorporating story, analysis, argument and wonder. It’s a little unwieldy. That’s my style, and I think I need to go with it.
That realization opened up the possibilities for me. Instead of not knowing what to do with those chunks in which I’d written about each of my kids, it occurred to me that each of those sections was part of a bigger idea. With each kid I learned something new about writing with homeschoolers:
- With H, I learned that the traditional school model of having kids take on their own writing at age six doesn’t work very well.
- With Lulu, I learned that what’s most important is to find ways to help kids want to write, and to develop their voices as writers.
- With Mr. T, I learned that homeschoolers can put the previous notions into practice differently. We can use an entirely different model.
Suddenly, I realized that I could write a chapter on each of those ideas, incorporating the sections I’d written about my kids with the newer sections I’d been working on. I could try to carry my readers along my own evolution of thoughts about kids and writing–assuming that many readers might follow a similar evolution–leading them right into the practical ideas that will form most of the book.
And I knew what I needed to do next. It was time for a cut-and-paste session.
Cutting up and rearranging my work in the back of the car, while Mr. T was at his wilderness program.
This is one of my favorite techniques for when writing isn’t working. Take what you have, cut it up and play with the order. It’s fun, and it almost always leads to new ideas. If nothing else, it gets you up from your writing chair and moving, which is always helpful.
I helped a homeschooled friend on her college essays this fall. She’d written a nice essay on her love of cycling, but it wasn’t quite capturing her passion. It wasn’t lively enough. I remembered a beautiful poem she’d written in our writer’s workshop, a very sensory, tangible poem about one particular ride. I suggested that she might want to cut up her essay and her poem, and see if she could work them into one.
Her resulting essay was unique and vivid and wonderful. I hope it helps get her where she wants to go.
At any rate, my own cutting and pasting session was just what I needed. Suddenly all my ideas are coming together, and I have a big, shaggy ball of dough to knead. It needs work, but it’s working.
This month I hope to write a good draft of the chapter on H and the traditional school model of writing (and why it often doesn’t work). I’ll let you know how how it goes.
Most likely at painstaking length.