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.
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.