Wonderful Writing

Learn how to find the interest in it

Take a moment to read Scratching,” by Twyla Tharp, and learn how to look at your own work that carefully and thoughtfully, including,

  • Finding the interest in it. How does the think “tick”? What problems does it solve, in what special way, and how might this be better than what you’ve known before?
  • Check your understanding. Mostly my students arrive thinking that when they write they are supposed to make believe they know everything and deserve a good grade, but in this clas we are writing to check our understanding, learn how to see things differently, and so use writing as a powerful tool for us (presentation comes later).
  • Clarify your thought. Most of my students arrive associating writing with pain and not pleasure, because they put it off until the last minute and because they are writing for others and not for themselves, but in this class you write things up to see if you really understand it, and assuming that you don’t the writing “pulls it out of our nose,” which is good, because then you’ll know better!
  • Writing to remember. If your approach has been to impress others and not yourself, well, no wonderful you forget! But if you write to find the interest in it, what it might mean for you, to share, and to be proud of yourself, well, you’ll remember this!
  • Writing for others. You gotta have an audience, and writing is completely different when you do so for an audience, in our case, first and foremost your audience is your fellow students: you want to solicit their support and advice, learn from their example, and enjoy the chance to return the favor and help them, too
  • Writing for you! You want to prove that you can do it, prove to yourself and whoever else you need to prove things to, like your parents, prospective employers, and not simply a teacher (nice guy or gal as they might be) and for a grade (how boring!)

Learn how to care for your writing

You are writing for your classmates to the end of soliciting and offering support and advice on how to proceed and for you to understand, clarify thought, and remember, and to do that you want to write things up carefully

  • Get the mechanics down pat. Please be sure your name appears in the file name and in your document headers, maybe something simple that will sort nicely, like this: “Anja, 7.5.19.” and so you and others know, on every page, who is doing what: you are writing to be taken seriously. Master the mechanics of Outlining as you will find discussed on my homepage.
  • Ideas. As you go along, make sure you’ve identified a couple of the text’s ideas and what you think about them: reflection is as important as noting what others say, because with reflection you have a chance to integrate self-consciously what you are learning into what you already know
  • Social relations. Work in pairs, and take a moment to describe what happened and to the end of developing insight into your learning process — much as you observe and manage team work in your classroom: learn how to see your writing in social terms, so that ideas are married to others, too.
  • A variety of forms. Words are over-rated: diagrams, photos of hand-written notes, photos of your team mates are all part of it and so you will want to learn how to include them, too: just like a picture tells a thousand words, so when you “show and tell” your having illustrations will help you remember and help your listeners follow you: walk through your images (don’t just present them as background).
  • Reflection. Reflection not only integrates what is new into what you know, but it offers you a chance to respect your old and new knowledge by building something out of it: learn how to be proud of your work!
  • Things that will interest your classmates. Today’s classmate is tomorrow’s colleague, you are learning the fundamentals of corporate communications right here and how, working out the basics of asking and offering help, asking for and offering clarification, practicing conversation and dialogue: note what they respond to and how, and choose a variety of partners so you learn how to work with a community, with people who are different than you.
  • One thing leads to another. You might think of writing as the building of a tool kit, or a jazz combo, where with each new tool you are figuring out what the unique qualities are of each and how best to take turns, working one tool against another.
  • Conversation, not lecture. Communications here is definitely not a simply data dump, but the building of something with others, so when you next speak you’ll have a better idea of what works and what to avoid, and when you see your classmates they will smile and remember you and invite you to pick up where you left off

Creating a safe space for learning

  • We are doing this to support us. We’ll do anything to encourage skill development (reading, responding to each other, reflection, etc.), and note-taking in pairs is simply a fun, supportive way to work
  • Comparisons. Reviewing each other’s notes is a great way to learn how differently we see things and to share insights and so learn from each other
  • Special kinds of thinking. Look especially for ”spark,” the “a-ha!” experience, when the brain waves shift to pleasure
  • Self-monitoring. Do this when you are curious and not as work you’ve got to do for class: all pleasure, no pain
  • Self-development and professional development. As you develop this practice, look out for changes in what and how you see things, and look especially for changes in your self-awareness, including the kinds of reflection you think helpful to cultivate in your young students
  • Feelings. When you reflect on what you do, note especially the little dramas, problems giving way to solutions, and the creative intelligence at work.