Becoming a Writer
I recently finished writing a first draft of a book for Bloomsbury on Curriculum and Assessment Design. It is probably the best thing I have ever done, but it was also quite an agonising journey. Here are some things I have learnt along the way:
- The blank page is terrifying, mostly because it is not blank at all – it is actually a list of your inadequacies and failings written in an invisible ink that only you have the power to see. Consequently I now have much more empathy for my pupils when they struggle to put pen to paper.
- You stop being able to do anything else remotely to do with writing or education such as engage in Twitter conversations or write blogs. This makes you feel completely out of the loop and also concerned that people will think you have snuck away from the education party – luckily everyone else is too busy to notice.
- You convince yourself you are a terrible writer. At least every hour. This is pretty terrifying when you’re also an English teacher and thus feel like a fraud.
- You have never read enough. You stumble across one article and it opens up 4 books that you know you should have read in order to write about the topic you are writing about.
- You read someone else saying exactly what you’ve just written, but saying it better. You want to give up.
- People ask you questions about the book such as: how many words have you written; when is it due; do I get a dedication and what will you write about next? None of these are helpful. (You also get used to the sight of extreme disappointment when you reveal that it is not a work of fiction).
- You say you have to cancel a social engagement because of writing and people act really surprised, as if books magically write themselves.
- Twitter voyeurism is a pleasant distraction, until you realise someone is having a full on debate about the topic you are writing on and you lose hours trying to trace the whole argument before realising it didn’t add anything new.
- You get driven to the edge of madness, particularly in the run up to a deadline. The moment I decided I really might have lost it was when at about 3am during a writing session I suddenly thought – “If I was one of the drafts of Austin’s butterfly, which draft would I be?” (At that point it was definitely draft 3).
- You feel like a pretentious git every time you mention writing a book, but as it’s all you’re doing other than working – it becomes an inevitable part of your chat. Only your most precious family and friends (or fellow writers) appreciate this; you quickly realise most other people would be far happier if you just had a new love interest or a baby. (This would also make for better Facebook updates).
Yet in spite of all of this, and the upcoming editing process which I’m sure will tear a few more pieces off me, it is completely worth it.Despite the fact that I haven’t slept for months and I have plunged the anxious depths of my mind and soul, I have made something that I care about and experienced all the pain and joy that brings.
For not only have I had the chance to design curriculum and assessment, I have had the opportunity to explain this journey through writing and to share all of the wonderful research and blogs that have inspired me. Much of the book is dedicated to surveying the work of those who I consider colleagues and friends in education, even if I’ve only met them in Twitter School. I hope that this book will be a way of passing on this knowledge and inspiring others to feel they can become experts, that they can be empowered professionals.
Whether it is taking on a leadership role, designing new curriculum and assessment, or becoming a writer, you are faced with the reality that it will be a tricky and thorny path, which might nearly break you. Yet it might be that in that struggle, that push to demand more of yourself even when you think you can’t, you create something which makes a difference, (even if just to one person) and that has to be worth it. Struggling to be better – isn’t that what life is all about?