I've been writing research papers for years. Since I started college in 1993, actually. I was a late-bloomer; I didn't go to college until I was 31. I did things backwards - married, had my son, then went to college. Anyway, with all my writing experience, and my editing experience as a teacher, I see myself as an expert. However, that expertise ended with non-fiction writing. I have loved writing since I was young, but when I tried to write some kind of fiction, I got stuck. Everything I wrote felt trite or uninteresting. I had lots of words, but few ideas. Well, actually, I had lots of ideas, but couldn't express them in a way that made others want to read them. Or made me want to read them.
Here comes the expanding horizons part. The teacher I was subbing for, Ken, is an amazing writing teacher. He has his kids writing and writing and writing, and not worrying about the quality of their first drafts - everything is subject to revision later. He had them read an essay called Shitty First Drafts by Annie Lamott, that talks about "down drafts", "up drafts" and "dental drafts". You can read it yourself, but the gist is that the down draft is going to be revised. Every time. Down drafts are for putting ideas down on paper. Revising those ideas as you go along can actually limit the process. This is a revolutionary concept for me. It frees me up to just write and not filter or revise as I go. It reminds me of the idea behind National Novel Writing Month. Just write. Turn off your inner critic and just get your thoughts on paper. Or in the computer - whichever works.
I've been playing with the idea of writing a novel in November for years, ever since I heard about NaNoWriMo. I got stuck on silencing my inner critic, though. That darn critic is pretty loud! I practiced while I was subbing, though - to circle back to my original topic - and I'm ready to try writing 50,000 words in 30 days. Wish me luck.
Other ideas that came out of this experience - I need to rewrite the essays I submitted with my teaching applications this summer. I'm not sure they were my best work, and my ideas have refined as I've been back in the classroom. It's time to revisit the ideas and to be sure I'm expressing myself clearly. Wish me luck there, too!