What Does it Mean to be a Writer?

Last week, for a few moments, I felt like a real writer. I say this a bit sheepishly because I really don’t consider myself one. But, as I sat outside at a local cafe early one morning with my writer’s notebook and a cup of coffee I thought I might look like a writer.

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A group sat down near me and they were obviously a group of regulars. Their conversation centered on updates about what was on the agenda for the day. I was brought into the conversation as they debated the merits of the one way sign posted at one entrance of the parking lot. As one of their friends drove in the wrong way and parked more controversy erupted. One member of the group is a lawyer and rationalized that the sign states the building owners preference but holds no legal merit. We all confessed to going in the wrong way, especially if it meant getting the last spot left in the lot.

As I got up to leave, I said good-bye to the group. They all wished me a good day and then one asked congenially, “Did you write down what we were saying?” Another asked, “Are we going to end up in a New York Times article?” I told them all their secrets were safe with me. As I walked away I realized they were under the impression I was some kind of writer.

Some kind of writer… When asked what I do, my obvious answer is I am a teacher. If asked, what is your favorite subject to teach? My reply would likely be writing or reading. It is easy for me to say I am reader.  It is not easy for me to say I am a writer.  As I drove away from the cafe, I mulled over the idea of what it really means to be a writer.

After all, writers are  people whose words flow onto the page, they get published, they are creative and smart. Although many writers I have talked to confess that they don’t feel any of the above and struggle like everyone else. But, the published writers I know do have a spark and persistence that leads to getting their work published.  I am slowly coming to the realization that writers are people who observe, think and write about the world around them.

My writing consists of quickly written mentor texts for my students, occasional blog posts and a collection of claptrap in my writer’s notebook. This summer I have worked to focus on having more of a writing life. I have dragged my notebook all over the northeast on my summer travels. Sometimes I write, many times I think about writing more than actual writing. I am always on the look out for seeds that I can develop into a bigger idea. I have written, I have struggled, I have revised and written some more.

As I return to the classroom and prepare to don the many hats I wear as an elementary teacher, one hat I think I will be more comfortable putting on is my writer’s hat. In fact, I think it will be best if during writing workshop I wear my writer’s hat more visibly. I will share my real writer’s notebook with my students instead of a demonstration notebook.  I will share my writing frustrations and celebrations.  I think it will enable my students to see my teaching as more authentic because I share their  writerly struggles.

After all, I see my students as writers it is time I see myself as one too.  We are all some kind of writer.

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6 comments

  1. You most definitely are a writer. Loved the line “I have written, I have struggled, I have revised and written some more.” This is what a writer experiences. Grat post!

  2. Awesome! You are for sure a writer! I would challenge your perception of what writers are….they are people who write, published or not, flow or not. And creative and smart – of course! As are you! And I bet there are moments when every writer doubts how creative and how smart they are. Keep the words going!

  3. Your post reminds me of all the ways teachers must see themselves so they can help their students learn. A scientist, a writer, a poet, a historian, an artist, a clown… It’s also amazing how it sometimes takes someone pointing out, or mistaking us, for something before we believe it. Such a lesson for how we interact wit h our students as well. Have a great year!

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