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Slice of Life 24: A Writerly Life

Daily slicing has been a challenge. This is my second year doing the March Slice of Life Challenge, and for some reason, I don’t remember it being quite this difficult last year. Maybe the “childbirth” rule applies. I’ve had three children and each time, I know in my head that labor was difficult and painful, but when I think back to giving birth, I don’t actually remember the pain. I once read somewhere that this selective memory was one way Mother Nature encourages us to have more children.

I wonder if this idea also applies to writing. I know how difficult writing these daily slices was last year, and yet I don’t quite remember how difficult it actually was. What I remember instead was the feeling of accomplishment.

It’s funny because we actually read a piece that compares writing to childbirth in my AP Lang class. In response to another writer, the writer Marian Evans Lewes (a.k.a. George Elliot) points out that writing creates “a sense that the work has been produced within one, like offspring, developing and growing by some force of which one’s own life has only served as the vehicle, and that which is left of oneself is only a poor husk.” Every time I read that line, I think of how incredibly depressing it is, both in terms of having children and writing. Will I only be a “poor husk” when this March Slice of Life Challenge is over? I hope not.

What I will be—and what I often am—after writing is exhausted. I say to my students all the time that “writing is thinking.” And well, thinking is hard. I’ve tried to take the pressure of the daily challenges by allowing myself to write a little less, to simply describe a small moment. Your slices don’t need to be life changing manifestos, I tell myself.

But every time I sit down to write, I find myself writing much more than I intend to. Take this blog post. My intention was to jot down a paragraph or so about what I was thinking this morning, and then to come back to update this post with little slices throughout the day. Instead, this post has turned into an extended reflection on writing.

Writing is thinking. Before I sit down to write, I struggle with coming up with a topic. But then when I start writing, I realize that I often have much more to say that I first realized. Writing, for me, has been a process of sifting and sorting, of discovery and understanding and then, hopefully—of clarity.

Of course, the teacher in me can’t help but reflect on the lessons here I can take away about my teaching, my students. As I was browsing my phone this morning, I realized I missed a #miched Twitter chat I was interested in. The chat topic was on the importance of teachers as writers. I didn’t go into teaching high school English because I was interested in teaching writing. If anything, I went into teaching because I loved reading and wanted to share that passion and nurture that love for reading in students.

Now, halfway through my career, I realize that probably one of the most significant developments in my teaching was realizing that I didn’t only have to be a teacher who teaches writing, but that I needed to also be a writer who teaches writing. And thanks to the Slice of Life Challenge, as difficult as it may be at times, I’m reminded of the struggles—and accomplishments—of a writerly life.


slice of life

This post is part of the “Slice of Life” series, organized by the teachers at Two Writing Teachers, whose goal is to give teachers a place to write and reflect. This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even some students), visit twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

9 Comments

  1. It is my third year and I think the second year is the hardest.I struggled a lot more last year than this one. or my first one, but the struggle is worth it.

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  2. This is my sixth year. It’s still a challenge. It’s mostly a challenge to find the time to write, and having not much time to revise. You are lucky that you write more words and thoughts than you plan to write. Whether the writing is for recording small moment or for sifting and sorting thoughts it is worth the time. Writing certainly has expanded my world and helped me to be more empathetic to students and anyone else who writes.

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  3. First year slicer here. I slice now and again on Tuesdays but have never wanted to commit to the daily challenge. I’m not quite sure what pulled me in this year. I’m working on a slicing reflection too. I’m really taken by what you say about writing as thinking. I know this, I say it all the time. Yet living it through the work of writing a piece and thinking is through with the hard work and many, many false starts and dead ends that entails is a whole different beast. I love your language about sifting and sorting.

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  4. rosecappelli

    You have laid out so many truths. Writing is thinking. A writing teacher must be a writer who teaches writing. Thanks for reminding us! I don’t think it gets easier, but I agree – the feeling of accomplishment is worth the effort.

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  5. I have read this through twice now. This is my first year and nearing the end I have started thinking that I will have nothing left to say next March. But your words about thinking and clarity really capture this writing thing. Hopefully, I will still be thinking and needing to write to find that clarity.

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    • Thank you, Carrie! I also try to participate in the weekly Slice of Life challenge during other times of the year, though I was only able to do so a few times last year. If we can do every day for a month, we can handle once a week, right? 🙂

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  6. I appreciate how many ideas you present here, but that they are all tightly bound by one controlling topic. I like the comparison to mommy amnesia. Your truth is so important: teachers who teach writing must be writers who teach writing. Thank you for your insights.

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  7. Thank you for your piece. This is my first time participating in this challenge. My earlier entries this month showed more depth and complexity. These past two weeks, I have been extremely busy with work; however, I have pushed myself to keep blogging. It is amazing the self-discovery that occurs while writing. Thank you for sharing the following thoughts about the writing process: “the writer Marian Evans Lewes (a.k.a. George Elliot).[ notes that there is] ‘a sense that the work has been produced within one, like offspring, developing and growing by some force of which one’s own life has only served as the vehicle, and that which is left of oneself is only a poor husk.'”

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