Writing With My Students: Am I “A Writer”?

This semester, I am not only assigning beaucoup writing assignments to my students – I’m also writing with them.  I can insert many Sound Pedagogical Reasons(TM) here, but really it’s about two things:

(1)  Testing my writing assignments by doing them myself – are these prompts really worth assigning?

(2)  Practicing writing (as we all must do in order to improve at it), instead of sitting around bored-ly as my students practice writing without watching me practice what I’m preaching to them.

Since I was thinking primarily in terms of number 2 when I wrote this semester’s syllabus, I had envisioned writing with my students as they wrote in class.  I forgot that I also assign them writing prompts to address as homework.  When I remembered (this morning in the shower), I realized that I should probably write to those as well.

Like my students, I’ll be trying to keep these to about 250-300 words, or one double-spaced page.  Unlike my students, I’ll be blogging them instead of uploading them to my writing portfolio.  Because a blog is far more public than a locked folder in our school’s course management system, all of these writing responses will be my own.  I will not post any of my students’ writing unless they ask to be posted and until they provide me with a piece they feel is ready for the public eye.  All of these posts can be found in the category “Writing With My Students.”

This Tuesday’s writing prompt (due Thursday):

Who is “a writer”?  Do you consider yourself “a writer”?  Why/why not?

Oiiiii…..

I write for a living.  I teach writing.  I answer the question “what do you do for a living?” with “I’m a writer.”  And yet, for all that, I don’t actually consider myself a writer – because I don’t write fiction.

What I write, professionally, is marketing copy for law firms, recruiting firms, and assorted other businesses.  I also write the occasional study guide or lesson plan or assessments for educational purposes, and I’ve written an awful lot of informational articles about various legal topics, some for highly well-known publishers.  And, most ironically of all, I’ve published a few pieces of fiction.

But there’s still this idea in my head of “a writer” being this person who lives in a remote cabin somewhere and who retires to a desk on the porch or in the attic to pound out X number of words each day, Y number of novels per year.  And because I do so much more than sit at a desk and scribble or type for eight to twenty hours a day – because I don’t subsist on whiskey or grow my own vegetables or live in a large pile of polydactyl cats – I don’t think of myself as “a writer.”  And I suspect that even if I did write a successful novel or twenty, even if the local library devoted a summer community read-along to my latest book and the local college taught a “major writers” course on what I’d produced in my lifetime, I still might not think of myself as “a writer.”

Yet I write.

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About Dani Alexis

Dani Alexis is the Legal Coordinator at Autonomous Press as well as a freelance writer. When she's not working, she coaches winterguard and waits on the whims of two spoiled cats. Check out her most recent work by subscribing to her Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/noncompliantspace.
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One Response to Writing With My Students: Am I “A Writer”?

  1. Thanks for being a writing teacher who writes. One might expect teachers to generally be writers. Their daily job is to give students information in a form that suits their needs. My experience with middle and high school teachers was that they generally didn’t write publicly. Perhaps university teachers have the pressure of “publish or perish” but is that the same thing as being a writer. I wonder.

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