Tonight I have written five absolutely fantastic starts to blog posts, that I’m not ready to share with the world. That’s the funny thing about writing, it’s so personal and yet, its true beauty is released only when shared. All five of these posts felt risky when I was writing them—some of my closest friends don’t even know I feel this way or dream about that.
I’m left thinking about what I ask my kids to do in my classroom. One of the goals on their writing checklist is, “Take Risks in Writing”. Don’t get me wrong you could take that goal anyway you wanted to, but when you’re in eighth grade, usually that means write something with content that you don’t normally share. The problem with this is simple: sharing is important in a community of writers. It’s how we do our best thinking, by analyzing and helping to refine each other’s writing.
In my room we have writing partners, we switch these partners two, maybe three times a year. These are kids that know each other well, and until tonight I would have told you that my reasoning in this was so that they could hopefully see patterns in each other’s style and way of writing—so that they could call one another out when junk was written and applaud when the level of writing was lifted.
But, maybe there is more to these partnerships than that. Because honestly, someone will see those first five blog posts. They’ll run in the form of e-mails at some point to Jess, a trusted friend, who will shot me real and honest feedback. Somehow from those e-mails, I learn which ideas/dreams are ready to be harvested and shared, and which are not yet quite ready for their journey to the ears of others. We never formally sat down and said, “Will you be my writing partner?” Things just sort of morphed that way over the years; I couldn’t imagine having the guts to write this blog without years of Jess e-mails behind me.
As I listen in on my student’s conversations I realize more and more that “writing partner” means more than a friend to walk through the process with. Writing partners are friends who listen to stories that aren’t quite ready for the rest of the world, and love you the same whether your writing is junk or Pulitzer Prize material.