Updated: Feb 23, 2019
I'm writing this, surrounded by learners, at a conference in Portland, Oregon. I'm in a session being facilitated by someone who consistently stretches my thinking and who I also get to call my friend: Bud Hunt. (An aside for those who don't know him, Bud is a thinker, doer, writer and teacher who currently does those things as a way to support public library work in Colorado. He's the real deal. Go find him other places. Like here. Or here.) The work of this session has, so far, been circling the idea that writing is a practice of intention and habit. Writing happens when we let it. When we make time for it. When we give ourselves permission to be writers. One of the first activities involved reflecting on our own writing lives. During those few minutes I wrote down the phrase:
My writing is chased by deadlines. I worry about laryngitis.
Does anyone else feel this way? Like a thing, or maybe many things, that you love is being strangled by the swirling, snapping world?
When we were asked to share what we'd written, others gave us their poems (inspired by these really cool doodads), while others confessed writing letters to loved ones and some others shared their thoughts inspired by quotes about writing. I was moved by all of it, but I have to admit I also felt a little alone in the room. I'd spent our shared writing time mourning a loss instead of filling the hole left in its place. But maybe that's a part of the process, too.
Over the last year or so, I've had some friends help me move my blog from the space it lived before, to the space you see it now. (There are many reasons for this move, the most fundamental being that I've been afraid of Blogger going away and since this space is also an archive of the last 10 years of my life, the idea of it suddenly disappearing shakes me.) That process has confirmed for me something I already knew: I've been writing fewer and fewer words here.
I want to justify this by saying that I've just been writing them other places, but that's not entirely true. It is true that I have written other words, but those words don't replace these. I haven't merely scooped up all my words and dropped them into a different bucket. The words I write here have always, at their core, been selfish. This is a space where I explore what interests me. Where I write without an editor telling me how I could be doing it better. Where I get to fall down whatever rabbit holes I want. Where my heart gets to drive the content. And where I get to use words to make sense of whatever is bubbling inside me. Sometimes I share resources. Sometimes I tell stories. Sometimes I celebrate the work of others. But those things only happen when I want them to. Ultimately this space is driven by something intrinsic. And it is absolutely NOT driven by deadlines.
Like a lot of people whose professional lives look similar to mine, I grew up wanting (at least sometimes) to be a writer. I read books by Judy Blume and dreamt of having my name appear after the word "author". After all, that's what makes a REAL writer, right? As the author of a blog who also reads a lot of print/digital books, my definition of what constitutes a REAL writer changed. Real writers have their names on the covers of books. If that ever happens, I thought, THEN I'll be a real writer. But then I did write a book. And my name appeared on the front cover (and the back cover and all sorts of other places, too). And for a moment I thought: OMGee. I am a REAL writer! But it wasn't long before a familiar voice crept in to remind me that the book I'd written wasn't fiction. It wasn't a story that some young person would carry with them always or cite as changing their lives. The book I wrote was a professional one for teachers. And surely that didn't really count.
Obviously, this is nonsense thinking. No. It's more than that. It's harmful, self sabotaging thinking. And, what's more, it's not true. I am a writer. A real one. And not because of the places my name has appeared, but because I've let the words inside me spill onto the page. I am a person of words. I am a purveyor of stories. I am a writer. And so are you, I'm betting.
I'm tempted at this point to set some goals, and maybe I should. If writing is a habit, and habits are built on intentional development, goals would be good. But saying something like "I'm going to write in this space at least once per week" doesn't feel sincere. What feels more filled with truth is just this:
I love this space. Both the old version and the new one (thank you again John and Brian!) I love writing. I love educators and education. I love books and libraries and librarians. And also, I love words. And I feel better about my writing when it's not being chased by a deadline. I need to do more of that kind of writing. And so I will.
And upon that promise I will pin these words, which I also wrote down from today's session.
Thank you, Bud. I needed this today. And on all the days.