Slice of Life Tuesday -Reflecting On A Writing Life

It is mid year vacation time for schools in Australia, and the next two weeks are a chance to refresh, and reinvigorate mind and body for students and teachers alike. First semester is so packed with activity and expectation for schools. It is catch your breath time. When we at last stick our heads up, we notice the grip of winter. The challenge is raise up against the gloom of grey skies, and embrace (or confront) the days we have been given. Today, I walked early and following breakfast and a good read of the newspaper gave some time to capturing a slice of life…
I find myself in my study in this first week pondering my writing life. Questions frequently arise when visiting schools concerning where ideas come from,  the mystery of routines and rituals and what sparks one’s passion for writing. Teachers and students are keen to engage in these types of conversations. Curiosity is abundant in such situations and often causes me to reflect on my personal journey.

Today, I am exploring this further. -Documenting some of the thoughts and experiences surrounding my particular writing life. I share them in no agreed order. I merely sat down with my notebook and the unfolded the map of my writing life.

The earliest writing memory I recall was in Grade 2. I wrote a poem about ‘Spring.’ I liked the response my words received. I was hooked.

I regret not having many pieces from those early writing days. We just weren’t encouraged to value our writing in the way we now ask our students to do.

In high school I wrote numerous pieces for the school magazine and when I entered college I became editor and contributor to the newspaper. My journey continued.

I am an eclectic writer. I write across a range of genres- plays, poetry, narratives, professional exposition, and persuasive essays. I write across a range of mediums. I have embraced social media as an outlet for sharing ideas.

I started my first writer’s notebook almost 30 years ago (1983) and have been filling them with entries, ideas and observation ever since. Each notebook reveals a new part of my life’s journey. My notebooks continue to evolve as I go. -Shape and size constantly changing to suit my preference at any particular time.  I frequently share my notebooks with the students and teachers I work with across the many schools I visit. I view these notebooks as a key resource in my role as a teacher of writing. I am acutely aware of the responsibility I carry, modeling my role as writer, collector, experimenter and risk taker.

I love words! Their sound, shape and application intrigues me. I write with my ear, frequently collecting quotes and random utterances I overhear. I am an eavesdropper and proud of the fact. I find conversation fascinating. Words stick to my conscious mind along with facts and assorted trivia. I have my Dad to thank for this. He celebrated words and shared this with me from an early age. He raised my awareness of the power words convey, frequently engaging me in word play throughout my formative years. This immersion in etymology fostered my love of language without doubt. I am a gongoozler. I love to observe things for periods of time. My eye is drawn to glimpsing things. My mind attempts to journal the observances I make, be it close up, or from a distance.

I have a well developed obsession for black ink gel pens. I buy them in bulk. When I write with these magical pens they assist me to believe (quite falsely, I might add) that I am a writer in possession of a really rapid writing hand. The words spread speedily across the pages of my notebooks, covering the white glare of the empty page in next to no time. In reality, I am left handed and not all that quick. I am neat and organized however, so it’s not so bad I figure. However, thanks to my special pens of choice, I experience a harmless delusion. Glide pen, glide…

I’ll stop there. There’s more to share of course, but I’ll reserve that for another time. This morning I rapidly filled five pages in my notebook reflecting on my writing life and its influences. I’m certain there is more to emerge. I just have to dive back in at the deep end and do some more exploration. I encourage my fellow writers of all ages to try it. What has shaped and continues to shape your writing life?


  1. Alan,
    I like the way you describe "writing with your ear"! Like you, I don't remember much about my writing life until second grade-my kite story...thanks for sharing your reflection.

  2. Now I know where the depth in your writing comes from - time, practice, and a gift for listening. Such a good idea to reflect on these things.

  3. Sweet to hear of all the ramblings of your black ink gel pens, Alan, and what that entails. I love that you've kept all your notebooks, and so immediately wondered if you return to those early ones to do some gleaning, something left behind that might still be ripe for 'eating'? I have journals from many years too, & they spark my memory of the time & place & activity captured. I like hearing about your writing life, & want to thank you for telling about the sharing with teachers. I talk with those I work with about notebooks, etc., but have never thought to share my own notebook. It's a new thought for me! Have some good R & R during your break!

  4. Your own writing map brought back many writing memories for me. I agree that it's important to share your writing with your students or other teachers. Being a member of the writing community makes you much more believable as a writing teacher. Kids respond to that (and it's a good model for other teachers who are not yet comfortable sharing their writing).

  5. Your entry made me think -- what early evidence do I have of my writing? Probably my Brownie Dairy (yes, that's how I spelled it). I agree with you that we weren't encouraged to value our writing. I'm saving your question for a future slice.

  6. Your reflection is a great one and one I think I need to do! I am afraid I don't have much to say about my early writing. A great deal of fear - much more of an oral story teller. I think a good think for me to do over the next week is to really give this some thought.

    Thanks for sharing and I love the listening and love of words!


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