In March, I joined the Two Writing Teachers month-long Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC). I wrote every day for a month. Each day, I wrote a Slice of Life story, a story encapsulating a small part of my day, in accordance with the parameters of the challenge. I experimented with genre, with mentors, with tense, with voice. I explored perspective. I wrote about my son. A lot. I pushed through when the going was tough. And it was, at many points.
Many of us who undertook the challenge, which included both teachers and students, also undertook some reflection about it afterwards. One student wrote a post that nicely summarizes the trials and tribulations of challenging oneself to write daily. Others wrote about ways that writing daily changed them, see here and here.
Here are a few of my own reflections.
Writing daily encourages the letting go of perfection. Over the course of the challenge, I found I took my writing much less seriously. I found each piece to be less and less precious, and I found it much easier to hit “publish.” And this was a very good thing. When we strive for perfection, it is easy to become mired down in our own struggle to define what perfection is and then to create something that lives up to this ever-changing definition. Because I was writing daily, I knew that I would always have the next day to try something else, and the next day, and the next. What became important was just to show up at the computer, not to create a magnum opus with each post.
Writing daily helps one become a better writer. To get better at something, one has to do it. Period. Not read about it, or think about it, or talk about it. Do it.
Writing daily helps one become a better teacher of writing. As teachers, we have at our fingertips an incredible amount of resources on how to teach writing. New professional texts are constantly flooding the market, consultants and coaches demonstrating methodology visit our classrooms, team meetings are dedicated to lifting the level of our writing instruction. While I do believe in the value of all of these, I can safely say that nothing has helped me to become a better teacher of writing than actually writing. When a student is stuck, I can say, “Here’s what I do when I get stuck like that.” Then, I can whip out my writing as a model.
But not only that, when I have tried to teach writing without actually writing, I have found myself removed from my students’ process. I’ve found myself less sympathetic to their struggles, less able to get into the muck with them and shepherd them safely to dry land. Being a writer myself enables me to look at a piece of writing, or talk to a writer, and know exactly where they are in their writing process and what I can do to support their next steps.
Writing daily means we have time to write daily. I once read a message on a coffee cup that went something like, “There is great freedom that comes from commitment.” That message has stuck with me. When we commit to something fully, when we view it as a non-negotiable part of our day, we don’t waste energy debating with ourselves over whether to do it, or justifying ourselves out of it. We just spend our energy doing it. Also, that which we discipline ourselves to commit to, that which we choose to devote our time and energy to, is what we will grow more of in our lives.
Writing daily changes the way we see the world. One student who undertook the challenge put it so well. He wrote:
This challenge has taught me so many things.
I learned to look closer at my day to find things to write about.
Certainly, when we write, and when we study the world as writers, we cultivate a certain non-judgemental detachment that comes from observation. We take ourselves out of the fray. We allow ourselves the space to see beauty, sadness, or poignancy in small moments that might otherwise frustrate, anger, or befuddle us. We see what really matters, but we also see that what matters to us may not mean a thing to someone else. We see the forest, and the trees.
None of what I’m writing feels new. Most writing teachers have heard this all before. But still, we (and I include myself wholeheartedly in this group) struggle to find the time. With my work responsibilities, my professional writing, and now with a small baby in my charge, I understand time pressure more than ever. I don’t have the sage advice or magic solution to make finding more time in the day any easier. But I do know this. Holding yourself accountable to a community helps. Planning ahead helps, even if you only plan for one day at a time. And a few minutes of writing are better than no minutes.
Meditation teachers often say that if everyone in the world spent a few minutes engaged in daily meditation, we could achieve world peace. I am willing to go so far as to say that if we all spent a few minutes engaged in daily writing, we could achieve the same.
Peace and happy writing.