Friday, March 7, 2014

Topic Take Over

This is 7 of 31 Slices for the March Slice of Life Story Challenge.
It's not too late to join in and link up. Head over to Two Writing Teachers and share a slice.
You can’t think yourself out of a writing block;
you have to write yourself out of a thinking block.
~ John Rogers

"But what do we write about if we blog?"  I've gotten that question quite a bit this week. When students ask me that I pull up my blog and show them what I have been writing about. Sometimes I tell them how I decided on a topic or why I captured the moment I did. I tell them how I surf through other blogs and talk through topics in  them  where to find

I want to tell them:
You could write about the shoes you're wearing.
You could write about the book you're reading.
You could write about what you ate for breakfast.
You could write about a shape you see in the clouds or the birds squawking from the tops of the light poles.
You could write about campus renovations or parking dilemmas or what's happening on your school bus.
You could write about your little brother-sister-puppy-best friend.

When a student asks me what to write about, I want to question them:

What do you care about?
What strikes you as interesting?
What do you wish to say to someone who matters?
What's part of your story?
Where did your name come from?
What's your birth story?
Could you tell the story of a favorite (cake, pizza, fruit, vegetable, pet, shirt, pair of socks)?
What makes you, you? What stitches you together inside and out?
What or whom do you love (living or long gone)?
What's sitting on the left corner of your desk or dresser at home?
Could you tell the story of an object?
What could you communicate by describing one moment of your day?
What would your best or worst moment from today reveal?

I want to brainstorm and bubble map and list. I want to follow rabbit trails and squirrel routes. I want to get to the treasure trove of ideas I know students have buried behind compliance and conformity.

There are so many things I can think and can do. There are so many things I ...  I am mindful this week of topic take-overs and creative coupes. I can't let my own enthusiasm and excitement invade a student's budding ideas and awareness. A student's writing dilemma is not mine to puzzle out or fill in or fix. I can meet them in need with any number of creative exercises or drawings or A to Z lists (though I could share that post from last year with students who feel stuck), but I can't do it for them.

When it comes down to it, when it is a student's turn on our class blog, she's the one that has to sit in the writing chair. She's the one that has to pull her story from her heart and piece it together with words and images so that we can her song.

Writers struggle with finding a focus and carving out a topic or territory. Writers learn as they grapple with ideas that matter to them. Try it, I tell my students. We are all writers on this journey.  

"We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. 

The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over 
and let the beautiful stuff out. "

Ray Bradbury


  1. Yes, the thing about writing your story is that YOU are writing the story - and the struggle to find a topic is part of a writer's life. Kids do get it, though, they just need to experience their way out of the struggle.

  2. "I want to brainstorm and bubble map and list. I want to follow rabbit trails and squirrel routes. I want to get to the treasure trove of ideas I know students have buried behind compliance and conformity." Oh... my.... gosh..... I always want to do the exact same thing! Good luck!

  3. True..,even I struggled today and even now not sure how I got to a piece I actually liked. Question on!

  4. I think this challenge is complex because it's not just about finding a topic. I always have things to write about. But it's also about writing something that you want to share. And then, on top of that, it's about writing in a way that is pushing your craft. I am trying to be mindful that I am trying to improve my writing, not just "get it done." And, of course, getting all of this done every single day. I love the challenge (this week, anyway), and it is a challenge.