Long ago I took to heart the adage “see one, do one, teach one” and I became a teacher of my children and a teacher of others. For me teaching is a way to pass it forward. To thank others who have helped me along the way (and you can bet, if you’ve had a family crisis, you’ll be getting a dinner from me to repay the thousands who have done so for us.)
I also teach because I can and I honestly believe that in my small way, I’m making the world a better place.
But teaching doesn’t just happen in a classroom. It happens when you pull the car over to the side of the road and make all your kids get out so that you can show them the difference between Queen Anne’s Lace and Yarrow. True story. (BTW, Yarrow has larger flowers and Queen Anne’s Lace has a single purple male flower in its center.) Teaching can be going to the gym, even though you’re really tired because you know that your daughters are watching.
And teaching is also encouraging others to do something they are too afraid to do on their own.
Because of circumstances (NH primary) I recently spent a lot of time (hours and hours) in a local restaurant watching live MSNBC broadcasts. My waitress saw me writing in a beautiful notebook and started asking me questions.
“Are you a writer? What do you write? Where do you write? You are so lucky.”
I could see her enthusiasm so I started talking to her about writing. She had stories in her head, she loved writing, her goal was to earn the money to go to college so she could write. She was busy, worked many hours and although she wanted to write, she often couldn’t find the time.
I knew a student of writing when I saw one.
The next time I went to the restaurant, I brought two equally beautiful notebooks and a package of pens. When she came to my table, I gave them to her with a card saying “If you want to be a writer then you have to write. So write.” I also gave her my contact information and told her if she had any questions about writing to let me know.
A few days ago I received this email:
Wanted to send you an email and thank you from the bottom of my heart for the beautiful gifts and for being such a bright light in the midst of all the Primary chaos that was going on. You were so nice, caring, and supportive! Lately I have just been journaling but I guess as long as I’m writing that is all that matters. What do you think?
Writing can’t be forced (if you try then it clams up and stays quiet) but it can be tamed. What does this mean? Go find an old fashioned kitchen timer and set it for 15 minutes. Once it starts, sit down and right. Don’t get up until the timer rings.
At first your mind will try to find every reason not to write. you’ll think about something else, you’ll have to go to the bathroom, you’ll be thirsty – don’t give in. Just stick with it.
After a few times your mind will realize that you’re serious and it will settle down allowing you to write. Once it does that, push the timer out 5 more minutes. Keep doing this until you can sit and write for 30 minutes at a time. Soon it will be easy to keep your “butt in chair.”
Ah, but what do you write about? For now use writing prompts if you need them. A prompt is like the first sentence of a story, it introduces a situation and then you take over.
Another option is to write about something you know, a favorite memory, a day at the beach, the crazy primary in New Hampshire. For now don’t choose anything too big, don’t sit down and think you’re going to write a novel, don’t even think you’re going to write about an entire vacation, instead take smaller bites, write about that time you and your grandmother went to the grocery store, or that time you spilled someone’s drink, or that time a stranger who believed in you gave you some notebooks. 🙂 Just like training your body to sit in the chair, the more practice you have writing, the easier it will be and the more writing you will do.
Ok? So your beginning steps are to 1. keep your butt in the chair and 2. choose something to write about and then write about it.
Give it a few days and then let me know how it’s going.
The life of a writer by definition is solitary. We spend a lot of time in our heads. But an important part of being a writer is that critical aspect of teaching. We teach others with our words and our experiences. It’s what we do to connect with others. And we also teach because it makes things so very clear for ourselves. Yes, *I* need to keep my butt in my chair today and yes *I* need to carve out time every day to sit down and write for me.
When you go out into the world keep your eyes and ears open. Be on the lookout for someone who glances just a little too long at you as you write. Or who compliments you on your notebook, or who just sighs when they see a writer. Talk to them, find out if they are writers who need encouragement and if they are then encourage them.
Get them a notebook, give them some support, tell them they can ask you questions, point them to a resource.
Give them hope.
Note: someone gave *me* that “awesome” notebook last night as a secret gift. Don’t think for a minute that I won’t be filling it with writing. Even seasoned writers can use encouragement.
Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.
Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.