by Patricia Fry
Writing for Life
This was originally a two-session workshop for high school students (although I did it at the junior high level, too).
I envision this as a program that would instill in students an appreciation for the value in expressing oneself and learning about oneself through writing. I hope this workshop will motivate kids to develop their writing skills for their pleasure, for their sense of well-being, to enrich and facilitate their social and community involvement as well as for their future in the workplace.
Writing was once considered a high art—even letter writing was in this category. And then we began relying on the telephone to transmit information and greetings and the television for entertainment. Although the event of the computer through the modem has begun resurrecting the written word to a degree, I believe that writing should be celebrated as more than a simple means of business communication.
Writing can be an art form. Writing can be therapeutic. Writing can inspire, teach, comfort, provoke new thought and motivate. The fact is that through writing, one can give and receive at the same time. One can teach and learn with the very same words. Through writing, one can heal and grow and, if they so desire, pave the way for others to heal and grow as well.
Through my Writing For Life concept, I want to create an awareness of the value of writing and to pass along the tools necessary to effect successful personal, social and business writing skills.
Here’s the program I outlined for the students:
I call this workshop Writing For Life because I believe it is vital for young people to develop good writing skills to use throughout their lives—for pleasure as well as in your future professions.
1. How much time do you spend writing in school each day?
2. What type of writing do you do outside of school?
3. How many of you are interested in pursuing a career in writing?
4. How many of you think it is important to develop writing skills?
5. Why? Why not?
Let’s examine the ways we Americans use the written word. What are some of the things we write throughout the course of a day?
Together we list:
Letters (refrigerator notes)
Stories, lists (grocery, to-do, Xmas, packing for a trip)
Email Notes (passed in class, hallway)
Job resumes, College applications
Diary, Advertising copy
We mentioned a couple of things here related to business. Can you think of a job or a line of work that doesn’t require writing skills?
We then explore specific professions various students are interested in and discuss the type of writing that this job would require. (The kids couldn’t come up with a job that would not require writing).
We then discussed other reasons when the ability to communicate in writing is important—even life threatening.
We discuss the importance of being able to communicate at even a basic level through writing.
I suggest to the kids that there are 3 things they can do to become better writers:
Write, Write and Write. Or Practice, Practice, Practice.
Here, I used an example to illustrate my point. I ask if any of the kids remembered something they once couldn’t do and now they can. Turn a cartwheel, throw a football, run a mile, serve a tennis ball, etc. I then asked them to think about the steps they took to become proficient at this activity. They had to admit that it took practice, practice, practice.
I talk to them about how I had to practice in order to become a writer and I shared some anecdotes of things I did to practice, I wrote a lot of letters, I wrote stories for my daughters when they were small and poems for greeting cards that I made.
I recommend letter writing (we could include email here).
We discuss letter writing, what it means to the kids to receive letters.
• It makes them feel special
• They know that someone cares
• It strengthens the relationship with that person.
What is the best way to receive letters? To write letters.
We lead into tips for writing a letter and I had a handout for them on this topic.
We also discussed journal-keeping:
• What is a journal/diary
• It’s purpose/benefits
• How to use it
I share guidelines for keeping a journal
• Type of journal book to use
• When you can write in a journal (practically anytime you are scared, worried, sad, happy, confused, excited, have a problem, etc.)
• Where to journal
• What you can write (I give examples)
• How to get started, etc.
• Rules of journal-keeping – there are no rules because it is your journal-book. Even drawing in your journal is okay.
I saw the kids twice, so I gave them an assignment to bring back to the second session. Some brought stories, others brought poems, still others brought journal entries to share. We discussed some of it in class and others I took home, wrote some suggestions and, of course, positive things about each one and sent them back to the kids.
Patricia Fry is the Executive Director of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) www.spawn.org and the author of 35 books. See her most recent books in the left column of this page.