Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Taking the Wheel

by Lisa Bullard

Some days I real­ly wish I was bet­ter at being a bad writer.

At the wheelHere’s why. Draft­ing, that ear­ly stage of writ­ing when you are just try­ing to cap­ture your ideas, usu­al­ly works best if you can get words down as quick­ly as pos­si­ble. But my inner edi­tor is hor­ri­bly crit­i­cal. If I let that inner edi­tor take the wheel while I’m draft­ing, it’s as if my car has hit a patch of ice: my wheels start spin­ning, I skid, and even­tu­al­ly I crash into a snow bank. So rather than writ­ing bad­ly, I often don’t write at all — to avoid that crash.

In a real-life skid, you have to react quick­ly; there’s no time to over-think. You cor­rect the car’s tra­jec­to­ry based on instinct and prac­tice. I advo­cate a lot of “behind-the-wheel” prac­tice for your writ­ing stu­dents, too, to counter ten­den­cies towards their inner edi­tors tak­ing over too soon in the writ­ing process. These inner edi­tors too often have names such as “per­fec­tion­ism” and “lack of con­fi­dence,” and they’re bad dri­ving instruc­tors.

I start each writ­ing ses­sion with a “quick write.” (You can down­load one of mine here.) For this exer­cise, the only mea­sure of stu­dent suc­cess is that they keep writ­ing. Even bet­ter, for­bid the use of erasers, since this is one time when spelling things cor­rect­ly doesn’t count.

Throw the edi­tors out of the room for these ten min­utes — and that includes your own edi­to­r­i­al voice as teacher, as well as the crit­ics liv­ing inside each of your stu­dents. I’m a huge fan of a well-craft­ed sen­tence. Edit­ing and revis­ing DO have a huge role to play. But the writ­ing ride is plen­ty long — and draft­ing must come before revis­ing. Give stu­dents’ cre­ativ­i­ty some dai­ly dri­ving prac­tice before you ask them to let their inner edi­tors take the wheel.



4 Responses to Taking the Wheel

  1. rosecappelli April 23, 2015 at 8:24 am #

    I am so guilty of let­ting my inner edi­tor take over! Thanks for the reminder and the sug­ges­tion!

    • Lisa Bullard April 23, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

      I still strug­gle with this all the time myself, Rose! I hope this helps you “reroute” your own ten­den­cies!

  2. Cheri April 23, 2015 at 11:42 am #

    I com­plete­ly agree. I teach writ­ing online and often remind my stu­dents to put their inner edi­tor aside when they are jour­nal­ing or draft­ing.

  3. Lisa Bullard April 23, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

    Those inner edi­tors are only use­ful if they wait their turn at the wheel, Cheri!

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