Category Archives: Writers Writing

when more is more: failing up in a 30-day challenge

As a jumpstart in my writerly life, I am participating in a 30-day challenge to reflectively write at least 150 words and then post online. We’ve since expanded on the idea with international colleagues into #modigiwri. Join us and here goes!


So, I’ve been failing miserably at the 30-day writing challenge to write at least 150 reflective words and post them. I have done better at responding to my challenge friends—albiet always a day late! I am grateful for their patience with me.

The same holds true for #modigiwri. That hashtag has taken off! You should check out the feed on Twitter. It’s on fire. Oh and Sherri pulled together the folks who are blogging with #modigiwri. So you can check those out as well:

But I digress.

Above, I italicized “and post them” because I have done some offline writing. And actually, I have been seeing some of the effects of my 30-day challenge activity as pitiful as it is. I was remarking to Darlene, and another colleague who mentioned being in a major writing slump, that I have felt the influence of writing and posting more and more frequently. For instance, I am working on a chapter right now. Using the proposed abstract, I was doing what I always have done, and was moving text around and extending some sentences, but I was not happy with how this was beginning. Here’s a sample of the proposal:

In this chapter, I suggest three ontological orientations for lifespan writing research. These orientations are framed by the provocation that comparative frameworks dominate methodological approaches in studies of writing development. When oriented to the comparative only—such as comparing age 8 to age 12 or designing before/after interventions—chronological time, age, or curricular sequences play an a priori determining role in findings. I suggest that a way to work both with and beyond comparison is to reflexively consider how we are oriented ontologically toward the methods and theories we take up in lifespan writing research…

Smith, A. (in preparation). Working title: Prepositions through the lifespan. R. Dippre & T. Phillips (Eds.), Approaches to Lifespan Writing Research: Steps Toward an Actionable Coherence.

Inspired by Darlene’s idea of writing different memoir beginnings, I thought: “Why don’t I just write a possible new beginning that’s totally different from what’s here?” Let me tell you: Ever since finishing the behemoth called a dissertation I would have never thought that. “Why don’t I just write a possible new beginning?” Please. Every word since that experience has been precious and some painful.

However, among other things, writing and hitting post or making efforts to write and hit post every day is helping me feel the weight of every word less and less. Writing nearly every day has helped me feel for the first time in a very long time that if I don’t like what I’ve written I will be able to write something else. I can’t emphasize enough how radically different that frame of mind is. It’s such a relief.

So, here’s another take at the beginning that may or may not stick this time, and I am totally fine with that. (It also shows, dear challenge buddies, that I have been writing…just offline! Now to go do some creative digital remixes and composition with the #modigiwri folks!)

DRAFT: An orientation is consequential. The angle from which we witness an encounter like a car crash, for instance, heavily influences our perception of what occurred. Did the blue car pull out first? Did the red one slow down? The answers to these questions are not just dependent on empirical evidence, but are also based on the relative perspective from which we experienced the accident. Conceptual and ideological orientations operate similarly. When reading the methodologies of a research report, you can often anticipate the findings. That’s because perspective from which the researcher took on the project limited her field of vision theoretically and methodologically. For these reasons, when it comes to understanding a person’s writing over the lifespan, it matters, or rather, it’s consequential, what ontological orientations the researcher takes up.

Smith, A. (in preparation). Working title: Prepositions through the lifespan. R. Dippre & T. Phillips (Eds.), Approaches to Lifespan Writing Research: Steps Toward an Actionable Coherence.


What do I learn from this? To write more (when it’s hard and feels heavy)…I need to be writing more. It sounds counterintuitive, but I am finding that the weight of each word is distributed across blog posts and high-stakes academic texts and comments on social media and tweets. When there are more words being written there are more words to share the weight of writing.


As always, I apologize that WordPress has begun to force ads on each post. Please ignore any ad that follows. I have not vetted and do not support whatever is advertised below.

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mo(re) #modigiwri!

I do love how connections among educators and creatives can snowball (in a good way) online. Two days ago I elbowed my way into a challenge from Darlene Kriesel (@darlenekriesel) to write at least 150 words every day for 30 days. It reminded me of the collaborative energy that was generated in #clmooc and I wrote a post to that effect.

Now, just a couple of days later several people have responded by sharing, expanding, and branching out on the idea. The energy is just bubbling over!

So, one of the branches came when Kevin (@dogtrax) reminded me of our first real online exchange as colleagues. We engaged in a conversation by sending each other multimedia posts we had created, and we also posted reflective process notes about how we had created our multimedia artifacts.

We used the hashtag #modigiwri to stand for “more digital writing.” (We had just finished the #digiwrimo [digital writing month] and didn’t want the conversations to end!) That was in 2012! Time flies. Well, yesterday Kevin went on a hunt for the conversation and posted what he found here: Searching for Curation: A Nearly-Lost Conversation about Digital Writing. In looking back, he realized the conversation was never rounded out…and it looks like it’s time!

So, we’re inviting you to engage in a combo of these two challenges, writing digitally every day to jump start your writing… and sharing and responding to others who are doing the same!

The writing can be about anything and come in any form. Use the hashtag #modigiwri if you want to help people find your posts!

Continue reading mo(re) #modigiwri!

Why am I whistling while I work?

I am participating in a 30-day challenge to reflectively write at least 150 words and then post online. Here goes!

I am going to let you in on a little secret. I’m writing an academic piece right now…and it’s really easy. That’s not something that is often said by me or in the circles I run. So, it has come as a bit surprise to be honest. I don’t know exactly what the difference is, but I have a good guess. I think there are at least three components:

  1. I don’t go back to work for a bit.
  2. I have text to start from, and I mean not just an outline, but developed text that has been tested on others.
  3. I am saying what I really want to say.

Let’s break this down (with the help of some 90s hits). I want to see if I can replicate this in the future, because I will probably not get this exact mix of components again.

Continue reading Why am I whistling while I work?

Say True Things: 5th Graders On Audiences On and Off the Grid

A couple of years ago, I posted about talking to my niece and her fifth grade class about audiences on- and offline. This week, in a graduate course I am teaching, the topic of teaching about online interaction and audiences with elementary students was raised...and I realized I never hit "post" on this companion post. So, here is a major #tbt to something that has been sitting in draft mode for too long.

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to talk with a fifth grade class about audience using a mini-lesson and guided practice that is probably familiar to many teachers.  We then extended that discussion into considering what writing for an audience means in contemporary times. The young people in that class shared great advice for the demands on writing in a digital, networked age.

Audience Offline

We started our conversation with a guessing game comparing two texts that were talking about a pair of shoes online:

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banner_shoe

We talked through the criteria the school was using in on online writing platform and saw that depending on the audience, every aspect of a piece of writing might change depending on the audience.

Message Continue reading Say True Things: 5th Graders On Audiences On and Off the Grid

Learning Flows at Queens Paideia School

Today I had the opportunity to visit the Queens Paideia School for the second time this year. An instructor at the school, Tim Fredrick (a good friend and a great writer), had invited me earlier this year to check out the multi-age, open design in action. Within just a few minutes of being at the school again, I was reminded of how positive and pleasant the learning flows felt in the space. Along with time and space divisions typical of schools, such as small reading and writing groups and individual work cubicles, teachers and young learners moved to different areas through the open spaces around the school rooms in different allotments of time.

Continue reading Learning Flows at Queens Paideia School

No. Don’t Surrender. Leverage.: Creativity in Scholarly Work

I was just talking with a colleague in the throes of dissertation writing. She’s right in the middle of the mess that is trying to thinking new thoughts. And though she was trying her hardest not to show it, she was feeling downtrodden, and at a loss as to what to do about it.
(And then today I serendipitously came across a series of tweets that animated what I saw behind her calm exterior. Press play and enjoy.)

Then she said something that I’ve heard (and said myself) a hundred times:

I just need to trust the process, right?
I need to surrender to it.

It rang so false, so hollow, so hopeless. This was someone deeply invested in a complex effort trying to grab at something secure. 2015/01/img_59031.jpgAnd surrendering to some amorphous process was her only solution? That’s no solution. I wondered: What is this “process” that’s supposed to solve everything? Letting time pass as we continue to “plug away” at the same old tasks? (You know what they say about that.)

Leveraging “the Process”

Rather than surrendering to this amorphous process (which I am now thinking is just code for feeling lost and ready to give up), I think we could do better to leverage it.

Continue reading No. Don’t Surrender. Leverage.: Creativity in Scholarly Work

Write. Create. Make.: A solution. Not a resolution.

I’ll say it. My 2014 Year in Review from WordPress is sad, just sad. And though the graphics are fun (thanks, WP), my work on this site has not been fireworks worthy. Let’s just take my 2014 Posting Patterns as an example…

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Click image to see the complete pitiful, sorry excuse for a report.

Posting patterns? Pretty pitiful. I didn’t have a “posting pattern.” I was in an avoidance holding pattern. Sure there was a lot going on this year, but I don’t need excuses. To be blunt: The sustained intensity of the dissertation processes in concert with the massive amount of other critical and creative…and really exciting…scholarly work I had been engaged in for the last couple of years had left me a little tired, a little wrung out to dry, and thus, a little hesitant to engage in any kind of writing, creating or making that was not absolutely, utterly necessary. And yet, I’ve missed it, and I’ve missed the rush, the spark, the energy I get while writing, creating, and making in order to keep writing, creating and making.

So, what am I going to do about it?

Write. Create. Make.: A solution. Not a resolution.

Continue reading Write. Create. Make.: A solution. Not a resolution.