Every Tuesday, the writing community of Two Writing Teachers hosts Slice of Life. All are welcome to participate by linking up posts or commenting on other participants.
A few of my colleagues from my MFA program started an on-line writing group, and we met last night. Some of these people are published authors, and all of them except me have completed their MFA program in creative writing. They've all written many critical essays, including one at least 35 pages long. They've also written over a hundred pages of a creative draft with the input of an experienced mentor.
We've all written a lot.
And yet, many of the questions and the input and the struggles boiled down to the same questions I ask my elementary aged writers:
- What's your story really about?
- What does your character really, really want?
- How do you weave action, description, dialogue, and inner thinking together in order to communicate the wishes and struggles of the characters?
- How do you stay in the head of your character?
During our critique sessions, the writer whose work we are workshopping is supposed to stay quiet; that person gets to speak and ask questions at the end. Last night, when our author had her chance to speak, she talked about how frustrated she was with this story that she's been working on for five years, and how she still can't seem to focus in on the heart of it. She's thinking about switching the entire draft from third person to first person--which is no small task-- and she's also thinking of abandoning it.
"I feel completely overwhelmed," she said, her voice raw with honesty.
Sometimes, I lose sight of how hard it is to write a clear and compelling story, and our curriculum (which is based on the CCSS) asks our students to do it at very young ages. When was the last time you wrote a story? Not a post, not an essay, not a blurb, not a lead, not a conversation, not a poem-- a full story, start to finish. I'm guessing many of us, by virtue of the fact that we are part of the slicing community, have written a story in the not-too-distant past, although maybe we haven't gone back and reworked and revised one. I'm guessing some--maybe many--of our colleagues who don't spend as much time on blogs and in notebooks haven't written a true story in a long time.
I give our children so much credit. Writing stories is hard. I need to remember that when I am working with my writers, young and old.