If you’re a teacher thinking about your own writing, you’re probably most concerned about the time it will take (time you feel you don’t necessarily have). For me, the times I carve out for my own writing are in the early morning, before my family has woken up and then again once they have gone to sleep. However, getting the time sorted out is only part of the picture – there’s the sticking to it and that’s the difficult part. Below, I’ve collected a few bits of advice I have taken from other writers, which have helped me develop (and importantly, to keep) the habit of writing.
- Keep a notebook with you everywhere you go – think as a writer thinks, gather material from real life, snippets of conversation, interesting phrases, new words. Show my own notebook as an example. Make wordlists, lists of names, lists of place names – lists are writer’s friends. Use your notebook in the free five minutes you get in the doctor’s waiting room or on the train home.
- Enlist the support of others – join or even start a writers’ circle or group of friends who can share work, discuss their triumphs and failures.
- Develop a regular practice – write for ten minutes a day, before the kids wake up in the morning over a cup of coffee, or last think at night. If you make it a habit that is easy to keep you will continue with it. If you do it every now and then it’s much easier to give up on. It doesn’t really matter what you write, as long as you write something (even if it is a stream of rubbish – the point is, you are writing). That might sound counterproductive, but it really does work. A writer is only a writer for as long as they are writing.
- Read, read, read – Writers read. Full stop. There’s a rather apt quote attributed to Robert Macfarlane, which says something like ‘every hour spent reading is an hour learning how to write’. Read the best examples of what you want to write. If it’s letters you want to write, read Keats’, if it’s fiction, read not only children’s fiction, but contemporary adult fiction, if it’s poetry make sure you are reading loads of poetry from poets both new and old, if journalism, make sure you read the papers daily.
- Read the advice of others – this can be a wonderful device for procrastination, but the Guardian’s series Ten rules for writing fiction is fascinating and a real insight into how writers go about their business.
- Share your writing with your children – show them you keep a notebook. Let them see you using it. Tell them about what you are writing, the struggles you are having with your writing. Let your children see you as a potential model of a writer.
- Consider making your writing public – diary writing is fine if you want an audience of one. If you want a real audience, it is the matter of minutes to set up a blog and a Twitter account. We have more access to real audiences now than ever before and if you want feedback on your work, there is an audience out there for it. If you don’t fancy a blog, think about posting your work to Wattpad, a platform which allows you to upload your writing and get feedback from other readers and writers anonymously. As teachers we should be encouraging our children to think about purpose and audience and as a writer you need to be doing the same.