Everyone has a story …

… or so we were told by an English teacher from elementary school.  Of all the teachers that taught me English, she’s the only one that continues to come to mind when I think about writing.


I haven’t got a clue.  I enjoyed writing; I just hated her rules.  I’m sure most people recognize the routine, the writing cycle, and all the rules.  Double space your rough draft, learn the editing symbols, use a green pen for edits, and the creation of the final product.  You’d have to hand in both versions and somehow I got a B or a C and then moved on.  They rules seemed to be designed to make her job easier as teacher and not ours as writers.  Of course, it involved cursive writing.

It was only later when I worked with a gentleman who was a real scholar about writing where he filled in the blanks for me and made so much sense.  At the time, all the writing I did was technical and looked like the sort of manual that you’d expect to get with a computer or software.  He really helped out, just by recognizing what I was doing, and explaining all the missing pieces.

I have always written – for myself, and for students, and for colleagues.  His approach changed my writing and then the blogging platform made all the difference in the world.  I still remember (and use) all the rules I formally learned but someone I had a newer approach that was more friendly and productive.  There are even moments when I write for myself just so that I reinforce a concept and not necessarily have it intended for anyone else.  But, I still appreciate that there are some who do drop by regularly to read it.  I like that my instance of WordPress has a tag called “Just Rambling”.

And, of course, I can add a gratuitous piece of art too if I wish.


Photo Credit: pedrosimoes7 Flickr via Compfight cc

I just happened to run across this infographic from Wiley (it’s copyrighted so I won’t display it here but you can see it for yourself.)

12 Habits of Highly Productive Writers

There are 12 points emphasized in it.

  1. they reject the notion of “writer’s block”
  2. they don’t overtalk their projects
  3. they believe in themselves and their work
  4. they know that a lot of important stuff happens when they’re not “working”
  5. they’re passionate about their projects
  6. they know what they’re good at
  7. they read a lot, and widely
  8. they know how to finish a draft
  9. they work on more than one thing at once
  10. they leave off at a point where it will be easy to start again
  11. they don’t let themselves off the hook
  12. they know there are no shortcuts, no magic bullets, special exercises or incantations

Each point has a developed explanation.  I find it interesting that it’s all about writing and not writing with technology.

When I look at what I do on this blog, I now realize that my writing habits are an amalgam of advice from both.  I suspect that we know so much more today about writing that my English teacher couldn’t make practical.  We certainly have better tools for those brainstorming, rough drafting, editing, publishing, etc. moments.

This all made me think about what I do.  I know that I’m never going to be the next big author.  When I look at what passes for publishing these days, I’m not sure that I want to be either.  In some cases, it’s not original work but rather a regurgitation of someone else’s work.  I think I learned that word from my English teacher in the context of what we call plagiarism today…

I don’t think my English teacher would survive for long in today’s classroom, with today’s tools and resources using the techniques that we had back then.  By the same token, my friend and the list of habits above wouldn’t have the importance that they do without the basics.

I shudder when I hear all of this talk about going back to the basics.  Where do we really think we’re headed should we do that?  Let’s shift the conversation to let’s build on the basics and move forward confidently with the best that we have.

Published by dougpete

The content of this blog is generated by whatever strikes my fancy at any given point. It might be computers, weather, political, or something else in nature. I experiment and comment a lot on things so don't take anything here too seriously; I might change my mind a day later but what you read is my thought and opinion at the time I wrote it! My personal website is at: http://www.dougpeterson.ca Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dougpete I'm bookmarking things at: http://www.diigo.com/user/dougpete

2 thoughts on “Everyone has a story …

  1. Doug, there are a couple of different things in this post that really stuck with me. First of all, I love that you see yourself as a writer — book or no book! I still remember this year when an author visited our school. One of our SK students went to hear him with his mom. He said to his mom, “I want to be a writer when I grow up. Oh wait, I already am one. I write my own stories.” This makes my heart melt! Now this student is by no means our strongest writer in the class. He can definitely combine sounds together to form words and share ideas, but his words are often squished together and his printing is large. His conventions are still developing. This is very normal for kindergarten, but what is not always normal and has truly taken until this year for me to see so much, is this positive attitude towards themselves as writers. This is what kids need to keep writing (even when it’s challenging), and it’s what adults need too. It’s not that the conventions don’t matter — they do! But when we talk about “back to basics” — a conversation that we also have around math — I think we need to look at the value in these authentic writing opportunities. It’s like the need for authentic problem solving in math. Skills matter, but the application of them also matter. Thanks for giving me so much to think about this morning! Curious to hear some others weigh in on this topic.



  2. I hated writing as a student. Mostly I hated it because the physical act of writing with a pen or pencil was painful for me. I was probably doing it wrong. When I graduated high school my Dad gave me an electric typewriter. He had sent my brother and I to secretarial school when we were in middle school to learn to type.

    Having that typewriter changed everything. Later when I started writing on a computer it got even easier even without WYSIWYG editors. Next up was a professional technical writer who volunteered to proof and edit my work writing. I learned more from her than I ever did in school. As I started writing more the company I worded for sent me to a couple of week long technical writing courses and I learned still more.

    These days I wish I had more time to write. Quite a change from grade school


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