Monday, July 29, 2013

Writing Habits

A morning walk had this scene as a reward
I had the privilege of attending a Choice Literacy writing retreat this past week in Hocking Hills.  The theme of the retreat was "habits."  One of the books that guided our thinking together was The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.   I loved that we dug deeper into this topic because I know that good habits are the foundation of success whether I'm thinking about writing, exercising, drinking water, filing papers, doing errands... the list goes on and on.

One of my writing spots (pic courtesy of Karen Szymusiak)
One of the habits I will begin in my writer's notebook and also here in my blog thinking place is to begin to develop my "writing territories."  I heard this term mentioned by Carl Anderson and Penny Kittle at the All Write conference this summer, and it really stuck with me.  Then recently, while perusing Ruth Ayres' blog, I noticed that she had defined some of her writing territories and why they are important to her.  I will need to muse on this a bit, but I know right away that two of my writing territories would be my family and my teaching.  I think if I can define these writing territories and identify a few more, I won't always be fumbling around looking for the next topic.

Another habit that I've already begun to work on is when a topic comes to me, writing it down as close to that moment as possible, and capturing as many details as I can before they elude me, and then find myself asking, "What did I want to say here?"  After I got home from the retreat, I realized I had a Nerdy Book Club post due in one week.  I had decided on the topic, but I hadn't really fleshed it out a lot.  But then Saturday night, right before bed, I was inundated with all of these ideas that might work in the post, so I quickly filled up two notebook pages with that thinking.  When I sat down to actually write the post on Sunday, things flowed fairly smoothly because I had captured that thinking in the moment of inspiration.

We also talked about the importance of brain breaks while writing.  Writers need to go with the ideas and the flow while they can, but when we reach a point that requires a break, we need to take a true break.  NOT one that requires more screen time; it was pointed out that's not a true brain break.  We need to literally walk away from the computer and do something else.  That could be having lunch or a snack, taking a walk, engaging in any form of exercise, or visiting with a friend, to name a few.

So, during the retreat and the past few days since I've been home, I've tried to gauge when I need those brain breaks and plan accordingly.  Yesterday, I had two projects that needed my attention - my Nerdy Book Club post and editing a presentation.  I got up at 6:30 AM to begin, and had the stamina to work until  8:30.  After two hours was a perfect time to stop, have breakfast, and read a book that was getting really good.  I was away from my writing tasks for about a half hour, and when I came back, I was rejuvenated, and the words started flowing again.  I worked for another two hours, and then I stopped for the day, and gave myself the reward of a walk in our nearby Metro Park.  For those of you at the Central Ohio retreat, I also thank Stella for this concept of work and reward!

One of my 3 affirmations to guide me as a writer.
One final habit I want to instill is the habit of meeting regularly with fellow writers for collaboration and feedback.  We set goals at the end of the retreat, and mine was to begin a writing response group that lives with us back at home; not just in the lovely setting of Hocking Hills.  I am so grateful to all who were there for supporting me in this.  We had 100% of the group sign up to continue writing/responding together.  We actually have set dates for the next calendar year, and we have our first location for meeting (thanks Julie!).  I am really looking forward to establishing this habit of writing response group.

As I write this post, there is another group of Choice Literacy writers gathered in Indiana, sifting through the powerful mini-lessons our incredibly smart leader, Brenda Power, provides for us, and then applying those ideas to their own writing.  I bet they are also beginning to think about habits of a writer as well.  I'm really looking forward to hearing about the take-aways from their writing retreat, sifting through their thinking  for both commonalities as well as differences.

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013

    #postwriting - Slice of Life

    I just read Katherine's post about her #prewriting avoidance skills and boy can I relate to what she was saying.  I have 2 presentations this summer -- one in Chicago and the other in Alabama.  The Chicago one is next week, and I just couldn't get motivated to sit down (BIC as Ruth would say), and begin that presentation.  I had to chuckle when I read Katherine's slice today.  I had many #prewriting moments before I finally put my Butt In Chair (BIC).

    But once I began laying out my ideas, I got great flow.  Better yet, I had the perfect environment for creativity -- quiet house, no one home.

    Over the last 4 mornings, I have sat down by 8:30 AM each day and have worked nonstop until after noon.  The topic, word study, is something I've been wrestling with, and these long blocks of time gave me a lot of time to reflect, revise, and refine my thinking about it.  The presentation was finished yesterday, and I was a proud mama.

    Today, the revising began -- I went in and cut out parts, added others, and moved entire sections.  I am happy with the final product.  And now is when the crazy lady comes out to play -- I literally have to walk myself through the entire presentation multiple times which means I'm the lady alone in her house, talking to an imaginary audience.  Thank heavens the humidity is so high all the windows are closed tight and nobody can hear me!!

    As I shared in a comment on Katherine's post, now I'm on to #postwriting.  I'm headed to the frig to see what celebratory food might be lurking in there!! After that snack of goodies, I'm going to do last minute errands since it's my husband's birthday today, and I still have a few things to do.  And then I'm headed to #NeRdcampBC tomorrow to gather with some of my favorite #nerdybookclub friends and meet even more new ones - yippee!!

    Other slices today can be found at Two Writing Teachers, Ruth and Stacey's blog, the blog that inspires us all to be here.  Thanks so much to both of these wonderful women for providing us yet one more format in which to write!  I hope they enjoy their July vacation!!

    Thursday, July 4, 2013

    Work Avoidance

    I slotted this morning as a "work" morning -- everyone is out of the house, and I knew the weather wouldn't be great, so I have the perfect setting for my thinking and planning for a PD presentation.

    What have I done instead --
    • engaged in a long string of text messages with a group of friends doing some planning, but also doing some silly stuff
    • caught up on some of my Slice of Life commenting
    • read and commented on some of the #cyberPD thinking about Who Owns the Learning by Alan November
    • called a friend
    • read 3 chapters in a new adult suspense book
    • and since I first wrote this a half hour ago, I am now adding missed blogs to my Feedly feed
    While I'm as happy as a clam, I do realize I've blown a wonderful opportunity to get some important (and much needed) work done.

    Oh what the heck?!!  It's July 4th, Independence Day - I declare my independence to utilize my alone time to spend in the activities I choose.  Isn't that what the signers of the Declaration of Independence meant? :)

    Monday, July 1, 2013

    Working on PD presentations

    I love the reflecting that goes into the planning for either a PD presentation or a professional article.  Off and on, for the past 3 days, I have begun the gathering process -- quotes, pictures, ideas, etc. for a presentation on word study I'm doing in a few weeks.  This morning, I took all the information and artifacts I've collected and started my idea board.  I totally borrowed the concept of the idea board -- I read Presentation Zen two summers ago, and I love the fact that even though the author is very techie and visual with his presentations, he always starts with a poster board and post-it notes when laying out the ideas and the flow.

    So, it may not look like much, but after several days of gathering and several hours this morning of organizing, I have a first draft of my presentation.

    As I was going through this process, I realized it is one I want to share with my students.  With the emphasis on research in the common core standards, this would be a great tool to share so that they might put it in their writing toolbox if it works for them.

    Come to think of it, I see some professional writing coming out of this...