Writing Is Hard Series -- The Creative Writer
I often hear from parents who are struggling to understand why their children think writing is hard. In this series of articles, we'll explore some of the reasons why young writers struggle with writing for school assignments.
The most difficult scenario is the creative writer scenario.
The creative writer loves to make up stories and capture them in notebooks. But, when the same child is tasked with an assignment for school, writing becomes much more of a challenge.
We experience what I call writing tantrums. Writing tantrums are something I have personally experienced on multiple occasions. Procrastination sets in. Tears are shed. Progress is thrown away or deleted. Ideas are coaxed onto the page, sometimes syllable by syllable.
The final product receives a good grade. Parents cheer on their kids. And then they are frustrated when the process is repeated with the next writing assignment.
In these instances, the young writer is pretty savvy. Whether they can express the idea or not, they have already mastered the importance of audience in writing. When the creative writer is expressing their own ideas for their own enjoyment, the writing is like capturing a daydream or writing down a fantastic movie from their own mind. When the writing is academic, they have to think through their ideas to share them with someone else, and often they have to contain their ideas in a format that can feel constrictive.
Creative young writers need help acknowledging the difference between the creative writing they love to do and the academic writing they have to do. One strategy that may help is folding a letter-size sheet of paper half length-wise and then in half width-wise so that there are four squares when you unfold the sheet of paper. Each square uses one of the following labels: positives of creative writing, negatives of creative writing, positives of academic writing, negatives of academic writing. Ask your writer to share two or three ideas in each square of the paper.
Let the young writer think about it. It might be even something that needs to be thought about overnight or for a few days. The goal should be for the young writer to identify their reasons on their own.
Thinking through the positives and negatives of creative and academic writing helps the writer understand the different rhetorical contexts and needs of creative and academic writing. For an upper elementary school writer, the chart acts as a tool to help frame the writing assignment. For a middle school writer, the chart serves as a foundation to explore rhetorical contexts.
An avid creative writer may never feel truly comfortable with academic writing. The goal is to help them transfer their strengths as a writer to multiple contexts with as little writing tantrums as possible.