As I was writing my post yesterday, I was extremely aware of how much work it was to get the words out. And I was also aware that it was hardly my finest piece of writing even as I was typing. For various reasons, things have been pretty quiet on the blog for the past few weeks and my writing skills are slipping. It doesn't seem to take very long.
When I am with other homeschoolers... homeschool meetings, conferences, and the like... one of the things that often comes up is how to teach writing. Which writing program is the best? What kind of assignments should one give? That kind of thing. And I've bought some of those programs and wondered those type of questions myself. We sometimes get the idea that the ability to write is a formula to memorize and master and check-off.
This is certainly how I thought about writing before I inexplicably became a writer. I still do a mental double-take when I think of myself in that way. Yet, I must be one because I update this blog pretty regularly, plus I get a paycheck, albeit a small one, once a month for my writing. I never set out to be a writer, and in school I had more than a few teachers do a really fantastic job of convincing me I couldn't write. It was not an area that I ever felt myself excel at, and thus my perfectionist self felt no desire to pursue it.
Yet here I am writing. How on earth did that happen?
Well, I think it is one of the many consequences of adopting TM. We decided to start a blog when we began the adoption process to keep family and friends in the loop with what was happening. We updated it sporadically, and one day I made the conscious decision to update it every day because it was such a great way to keep my parents involved in the lives of their grandchildren since we live so far away.
That was the turning point. Writing every day. Something. Whether I felt like it or not. Whether I had anything to say or not. (Though I'm sure some readers wished I would skip those days.) I know it's been said before, but if you want to be a writer, you have to write. Just write. Every day. Whether you like it or not, whether you will ever have anyone read it or not. Writing is a skill that takes practice. You can't learn it by reading about, only by doing it.
Oh, and reading. You also need to be a reader. A reader of good books so that you can hear the rhythm and melody of the language you are writing in your ear. If you are attuned to how good writing sounds, you will know if your own writing is off. Reading and writing. The recipe couldn't be more simple or more difficult.
Not only have I seen this played out in my own writing, but I have had the chance to watch it unfold before my eyes over the past month as I have watched D. participate in the NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. He set himself the goal of writing 20,000 words during the month of November and on the way home from Thanksgiving, we heard a shout from the back of the van, when D., counting his words, realized he had met his goal.
He has been diligent in writing every single day. There were some moments of frustration when he hit a road block, but learning that everything you write is not going to end up in the final product is part of the process. He reads voraciously and knows what sounds good. He has realized that the more he wrote, the more fluid the process became. D. now has a multi-year plan for his writing, taking a page from Stephen King's way of working. He wants to finish the novel he started this past month, then he plans on putting it away and beginning on a new story, the outline of which he has mapped out already. Then he wants to revisit that first book. And so on and so on.
All of this is to finally get me to a place where I can say, CONGRATULATIONS, D.! I am very proud of you for taking on and meeting this goal. It was no small thing and you succeeded beautifully.
In case you missed the fundraising post and video for Y.'s adoption, you can find it here: Boy, This Makes Me Uncomfortable