Over the next week or so of classes, I’ll be asking my students to write their “Writing Autobiography.” I used to ask them to write me their mini autobiographies and, while I loved reading them, it now feels intrusive to ask my students to tell me their life stories right off the bat. I want to build some trust first. Let’s face it: Writing can be brutal. Everyone has gotten negative feedback about their writing, and that can REALLY damage a person’s willingness to give it another shot. On the other hand, we also get praise from audiences who like our writing.
I want my kids to write about the good, the bad, and to start thinking about possibilities.
Here’s my own brief writing autobiography:
Yellow tablet paper, wide ruled, blue lines. A large margin at the top, but none on the left side. Brown cardboard backing that everyone personalized. Those were my first notebooks, standard issue in my elementary school. I couldn’t wait to get my new one each year.
I wrote stories about my family and our adventures. I wrote about mystical lands and attempted to be scary. I sometimes wrote poetry, but pretended to hate it because it wasn’t cool to like poetry.
Adults generally liked (or pretended to like) my stories. I got a couple poems published in anthologies for children. By the time I was in high school, I took a lot of pride in my writing. I didn’t take criticism that well, but I also was sometimes embarrassed by my writing.
My cousin Marie gave me a journal for Christmas one year, and once I started writing in it, I never really stopped. I now have a stack of journals that are the story of my life. Some of them I never open, because those periods of my life are still heartbreaking.
In my freshman year of college, I got a C on an essay for the first time. I was crushed! I had always been such a perfectionist that getting a B was unacceptable. When I went to the professor to talk about the worst essay grade I had ever received, she told me she was trying to push me further.
Nowadays, most of my writing is for me and the people around me. I’ve traded the yellow tablets from the 1980s for my blog, so now my audience is much larger. Even though I love my identity as a blogger and sharing my words with the world, I still keep a paper and pencil journal. Some things are just too private, too scattered, too frightening, or too ridiculous to put out there.
I am a writer, and this is just one of my stories.
That last line is good. I think I’ll have everyone write that as their last line.