Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ms.Adams, I have nothing to say.

Photo Credit: Morguefile by doctor_bob

I tutor.

Every week, a new contrivance. Picture prompt. Mind map. Narrative. Fishbone. Hamburger essay. Substitute that word "run" for something more colorful! It does not always need to be "flew." 

Ms. Adams, I have nothing to say.

Writing, it turns out, is not a given. Who knew? And, with 10,000 tricks up my sleeve, teaching the child who cannot spell or use correct grammar to write is often frustratingly slow. For my own part, I may as well teach them how to grow hair. How to convert oxygen in their cells. But I say I can do this and I damn well will. Once in a while, the light turns on and inspiration gleams. Then, no matter what I get, I will be pleased. But I have to wonder...

Why can I write? 

Is it natural inclination? My eldest son could climb a tree almost as soon as he could walk. Gifted with quick-twitch muscle and ropy limbs, he was built to scale a tree. Is the art of writing as simple an act as that? I think I started writing when I was first old enough to move a pen, or could get an adult to sit in a chair and type. Perhaps there have been muses inside me writhing like so many maggoty, inspired worms, threatening to consume me if I do not retch them out onto a page. Perhaps I write because I can and always could.


Perhaps, instead, I was blessed by my family. Bathed in children's classics, read to day and night, I was given the works of Kipling, Carroll, Lindgren, and soon could read them on my own. I read like some children eat potato chips, in a room full of crumpled drawings and scattered scarves, laundry heaps and costumes—the library of a child. I spoke in antiquated sentences with grammar fallen out of fashion and vocabulary no one knew but the literary greats and I. Maybe writing in a household full of literature is like picking up a piano in the home of a concert musician, instruments scattered about. Growing up with Nickelodeon and structured afternoons, I might be someone else entirely.

But...why can I write?

Is it practice? How many words had I set on pages before my narratives made sense, before adjectives no longer smothered nouns in bosoms pillowy but let them say their piece? How many essays had I written before I let sentences die when they needed to be killed? How much work did I have to do to recognize I'd written crap again? 

Day after day after day, I write. My voice alters, sometimes clear, more often garbled. I rarely have the luxury of editing as much as I would like, especially on a NaBloPoMo month. But I can write. Compared to a novice if not to a master, I can write.


And how to give that gift away?

Note: For a somewhat more glimmering view of my escapades in teaching writing, you might look at this. It makes me look way better.


  1. I've wondered the same. Like you, I was a writer from my beginning and also like you, I was raised in a household that appreciated words, encouraged curiosity, and celebrated my stories.

    My mom (again, like yours!) had magic in her prose. My dad was musically gifted. I'm more her than him, though my abilities fall far short of what she possessed.

    Of my three, none are writers and only my oldest sees the library as a sacred place. My firstborn is a fine writer, but her passion lies elsewhere. Her oldest, though, has the magic. She spins lovely tales and like some of the women before her, understands that her writing isn't just what she does, but is a vital part of who she is.

  2. I've wondered that as well .. I remember learning to read with my mother at five ... I remember memorizing and then "reading" the same paragraphs over and over. I remember being seven and writing my first story .. I never thought it was "weird" or unusual 'til I began slowly noticing very many people couldn't do the same... I guess it's what makes us special. . everyone has something, I'm glad what makes me special is writing. :)

  3. Writing, like anything else, definitely takes practice. But unlike most things (playing the piano, being an excellent athlete), writing is a necessary skill. I think some people's/students' reluctance to write is because they aren't used to it; they haven't had enough practice.

    Got here via Larissa's TidBit Thursday :)

  4. You definitely write very well. I love visiting your blog tho I don't comment as often as I should.
    I don't write well, not as well as I would like to, but I write. I started to blog a year ago and I noticed what work for me is practice and practice and eventually it comes around.

  5. I relate a lot of course to what you say, Beth and Larissa. Maybe this a handicap in instructing writing in a way?

    I also think, Bee and Journey, that there's a lot to what you say. There's writing and then there's writing. Not everyone could or should write for pleasure or employment, but I do believe that all educated people need to be able to write competently and that an inability to write well is a major handicap. One educational philosophy I have read says that writing tends to be hard when you can't spell or use correct grammar, and when you don't know how to do it. So, it advises working on the foundations of those skills and allowing creativity to flow naturally once a child is able to actually write well enough to translate thought to pencil. I'm trying this with my son now. Not having as much time with the kids I tutor, I tend instead to look for a hook—anything that might make them enjoy writing something down. I never really am sure if I'm doing anything right! Maybe someday I'll pay for a training from the Institute for Excellence in Writing.

    1. Totally agree with you about the spelling and grammar. I read once that people who can't spell don't read very much. I don't know if that's true, but it makes sense.


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Faith in Ambiguity by Tara Adams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License