Slice of Life Story -On Ya Bike!

No one learns to ride a bicycle by observing pictures of one. No, we must clamber onto said two wheeled contraption and push off on our perilous first journey. It may be short lived and may involve a sudden ending. Our first efforts are most likely accompanied by a high degree of uncertainty and are characterized by white knuckled gripping of the handlebars. We wobble and shake in our desperate attempts to control the direction of the seemingly unmanageable machine. Our efforts are concentrated towards making those willful wheels travel in a straight line, avoiding potential hazards such as fences, potholes, power poles, - people!
Learning to ride a bicycle may also involve a few mishaps. It is most unusual not to experience the occasional ‘prang.’ -The kind of accident that separates rider and bicycle and occasions cuts, scrapes and a few bruises. A bit of bark of our knees comes with the territory the rider is exploring.
Despite such setbacks, the inexperienced rider generally persists and a measure of control begins to develop. The bicycle yields to the will of a determined rider. Eventually the ability to swerve around an errant dog, a muddy puddle, another cyclist emerges and the journey becomes more controlled, more predictable, less angst ridden (pardon the pun).
I frequently find myself reminding young writers of these facts and drawing an analogy with learning to write. Wobbly at first, the writer starts out with great uncertainty and a lack of control. Through practice, persistence and good old fashioned stickability, the writer develops greater self belief and control over the direction the writing takes.
This is a message we not only share with developing writers, it’s a message for adults as well. In recent weeks I have met a significant number of teachers who want to know more about being more effective teachers of writing. They are questioning their current practice. However, the vast majority of them do not write by choice. Their students do not see them as writers. There is an obvious disconnect between what they wish to achieve and what they are currently doing as teachers of writing.  This is a sad reality in too many classrooms.
The message to each of them is simple. -Just as you did all those years ago, - climb back onto the bike and start pedaling. -On your bike squire. There you go…
Brave writers (and bike riders) can be any age. It just requires the necessity of daring. The writer must stare down the shiny blank page and cover it slowly with words. In this way the writer asserts freedom and the power to act.   Words lead to more words and so the journey is underway. A bit like riding a bike actually…
Bicycle in Via Pelligrini , Rome October 2012


  1. Alan,
    Thank you for this reminder that we all begin somewhere with learning to bike just as learning to write! I love the message here-just do it! I will use this story to remind people who are hand wringing about writing that you've got to walk the walk-or ride the ride in this case!

  2. What a great analogy. It's true that we learn both through practice and risk taking. Thanks. Can't wait to share this with my kids.

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  4. Great story! Unfortunately there seem to be fewer and fewer spaces for these experiential learning experiences in our schools.
    Great blog!!

    You can find me at

  5. While I know that writing begets writing and practice makes better, I often embark on a new piece of writing feeling as though I have no history of "riding" behind me. Why is it that I look back on previous writing that feels good and wonder how I ever wrote it? I wonder when I'll feel confident every time I push off the curb, I mean paper.

  6. Alan, this writing is a good analogy for writing and for life. Whenever I meet new challenges, allowing myself to understand that new doesn't mean easy and doesn't mean that I won't have a few bruises in the process is important to accept. I also remember, though, that with the difficult, bumps and bruises comes the exhilaration of flying into something new, wind on my face, success. All good things come from hard work! Thanks for this reminder today!

  7. Wise words once again. I have used this analogy too, but alas, they don't see a reward for them in writing. If only they could taste the satisfaction of putting words to paper and someone says something nice about it to them. I think they would be hooked.

  8. I think you've started a conversation, Alan. And, I wish I could convince those with whom I work that writing 'with' their students is so important, and actually I think teachers learn from this too, learning that they will be able to pass on to students. Thanks for the carefully crafted analogy. I will save it to share!


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