What does a lifelong writer look like?

Modelling yourself as a lifelong reader to students isn’t so hard. Most teachers I know read something for pleasure – the newspaper, trashy novels, high literature or celebrity blogs are some examples of this but there are countless others. We all know the power in hooking our students into reading by letting them see into our own reading lives – if we take it seriously and get pleasure from it, it’s far more likely that they will too.

Modelling yourself as a lifelong writer seems to be a slightly harder stretch. This hit home to me recently when coaching in a Grade 5/6 classroom. I can happily and confidently tell students when I last read a book, skimmed a magazine or checked out a Pixar short online but when did I last write for pleasure? I really had to think about it. I blog (infrequently) and write in a journal (even more infrequently). I do keep a Writer’s notebook but generally only reach for it when I’m preparing for a class. Nearly all of my writing is for work or domestic purposes – emails to colleagues, grant proposals, shopping lists, lesson planning documents, University essays, notes from reading or professional learning – a long enough list of examples but none that I could say were purely ‘because I wanted to’.

This was a topic that came up for discussion at the ALEA conference earlier this year when a few of us on the Twitter backchannel were discussing whether we really needed to be ‘lifelong writers’ ourselves to be able to teach it well. I came to the conclusion that it certainly makes it easier. So I’m setting out to rediscover ‘writing for fun’. The fact that I was writing on a Twitter backchannel at all is part of that – I don’t have to and aren’t being paid to. I enjoy it. I like connecting with others, sharing thoughts and participating in conversations online.

With Summer holidays now stretching ahead, I’m throwing myself into the writing pit and, so far, am enjoying rediscovering my love of writing. I’ve spent some time scrapbooking which lead me back to journalling. I’ve added some things to my Writer’s notebook which has inspired me to attempt writing a picture book (illustrator needed – my inner artist is buried very deep!). And I’m here, back on my blog which I always enjoy reconnecting with, however sporadically.

Do you see yourself as a lifelong writer? What do you write for pleasure? Do you think it’s necessary to be seen a lifelong writer to enthuse our students in a similar way?



3 thoughts on “What does a lifelong writer look like?

  1. I write my blog for pleasure but I am one of very few people I know that write for pleasure, and that is fine with me. I think that everyone should have the capacity the write well, and this is important to teach in schools, but I don’t think that everyone has to write regularly.

    Similarly, I have had school leaders impress on us that “lifelong readers” read all kinds of material regularly. Perhaps I should be reading scientific journals and long, academic books, but they don’t entertain me or fulfill a particular need for me so I see no need to wade through them just so I can fit someone else’s ideal of a “lifelong reader”.

    • Thanks for the comment, Mark. I had a discussion not long ago with some colleagues about whether or not they write for pleasure – most instantly said no. But when we discussed a broader idea of writing – creating movies, writing personal emails, keeping a journal/diary – quite a few more put their hand up. Thinking about ‘creating’ rather than ‘writing’ made it a bit more relevant.

      And as for regularly – as you can see from my blog, ‘sporadic’ is the best that can be said about my own writing for pleasure. I agree that teachers should have the capacity to write well but I do also think they need to see themselves as writers to be able to help students develop that lens. It doesn’t have to be regular and it doesn’t matter what form it’s in – it’s more important that it involved thought, a degree of planning and working through similar struggles that other writers have.

      I agree as well with your comment about lifelong readers – to me, that’s just someone who reads, for whatever reason they want/need to, again not necessarily regularly. It doesn’t mean someone who reads a broad range of texts. Up until I developed an interest in running, I never read non-fiction texts whereas now I rarely read fiction. My reading habits change with my interests, lifestyle and available time.

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