Monday, January 13, 2014

The Key to Writing

key The first key to writing is you write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. – Forrester (played by Sean Connery) in Finding Forrester

I was watching the movie Finding Forrester the other day and I really enjoy watching Sean Connery along with the plot of the story. I've seen this movie a few times over the years but for some reason the above quote really stood out for me this time.

I realize that he spoke exactly the way that I write. It was like someone really understood my writing process! I believe this is the key to writing.

I finally have my husband jotting down ideas and notes as he thinks of them and then I help him put them in some kind of order. After it is in the order he likes, he can go back and do revisions. Now he writes so much more than he did when we first got married and I think he is more confident in his writing because of this. When he first started writing (for classes he was taking or for his work), he seemed paralyzed by the overwhelming task. Slowly, over the years, he has learned to write what is in his heart. The rewriting, correcting of spelling and grammar can come later but getting his thoughts down is what is important.

I want my students to do the same thing. That is one of the reasons I had them write in a journal for five minutes at the beginning of class. I tell them that spelling doesn’t count. I only expected five complete sentences written in paragraph form. I read over them and corrected their spelling but they didn’t lose any credit for that. I asked them to note the correct spelling and try to use it correctly in the future. After the second month, I insisted that they indent the first sentence of each paragraph. After the third month, I asked that they write a topic sentence in addition to the five sentences that supported the topic sentence. By this time, their spelling had improved because they could refer back to previous paragraphs.

It was amazing to read the things they wrote when they wrote from the heart. When they weren’t worried about spelling or grammar, they wrote freely about their thoughts and feelings once they realized that I was sincere about not penalizing them for spelling or grammar. Sometimes I left a comment to what they wrote and they seemed to like that too.

I’m not saying that they never would be graded on spelling or grammar but first I wanted them to write from the heart. It is exciting to see them when they feel comfortable doing this and free from their own limitations. If I couldn’t read or understand what they wrote, I asked them to come up and read it aloud to me so I could make the necessary corrections.

The best part was at the end of the year when I had them compare their latest writing to their writing from the beginning of the year. I even had them write about how their writing had changed and what difference they noticed. I hope it encouraged them to continue writing even when they left my class.

How do you encourage writing with your students? Please share.

Image: 'Key 3'
Found on

1 comment:

Sioux Roslawski said...

I share Barry Lane's idea about drafts with my students. There is the "down draft"--just get it down. Next there is the "up draft" where you fix it up and revise. Finally there is the "dental draft" where you look at your draft like a dentist looks at your mouth--you look at every nook and cranny and edit, correct the grammatical and spelling and punctuation errors.

I love "Finding Forrester." I also love these other movies about writing: "Once" and "Stranger Than Fiction" and "Sideways."

Thanks for this post, Pat.