Monday, December 18, 2017

A Manifesto to Shield Me From My Writing Gremlins by Andy Schoenborn

The thought of writing usually scares me and, yet, it is a place I long to be.  At it’s best, writing is an unveiling of thought - a comfort with vulnerability.  And to teach writing is to publicly embrace imperfection - to pull the curtain back on the process.  Writing is revealing.  It is a place in which you learn what you really think about a subject (for now).

When I write my mind echos the thoughts Don Murray who wrote in a column for The Boston Globe, “Each time I sit down to write I don't know if I can do it. The flow of writing is always a surprise and a challenge. Click the computer on and I am 17 again, wanting to write and not knowing if I can.”  The best writers need encouragement and they too battle the same gremlins who dryly whisper, “give up.”

Don’t listen to them.  Write on!

To keep personal gremlins at bay my shield is my manifesto:

Just begin.  The writer and the artist are one in the same - we need material.  A freely flowing rough draft with no judgement is the clay I need to work out my thoughts.

Set a goal and write everyday.  Some days I reach 1600 words.  Most days I manage 200, but I have written - and that is enough.  A steady drip, however slow, still fills a bucket.

Read.  Writing and reading are interdependent.  They inform each other and spark moments of insight.

Take the risk to share; and celebrate those who do.  The best writers I know were rejected many times before they were accepted as writers.  Go for the rejection letter and celebrate those who have crossed the publishing threshold.  You will too, in time.

Do not write to an audience; your audience will find you.  It is good advice to keep your audience in mind, but do not try to guess what your audience wants to hear.  Most likely they want to hear your authentic voice.  They want to hear you!

Encourage other writers.  There is no competition - only celebratory moments.

Revision is a re-envisioning.  After finishing a piece, put it away for awhile and read it with fresh eyes.  The piece will reveal itself in surprising ways - let it guide you.

Trust the process.  ‘Nuff said.

This is my manifesto.

I write to reflect.  I write to learn.

I write to understand my truth.

I write to let others know they are not alone.

Andy Schoenborn is a high school English teacher in Michigan at Mt. Pleasant Public Schools.  He focuses his work on progressive literacy methods including student-centered critical thinking, digital collaboration, and professional development.  Andy is a past-president of the Michigan Council of Teachers of English and National Writing Project teacher consultant for Central Michigan University’s Chippewa River Writing Project and frequently conducts workshops related to literacy and technology.  Read his thoughts on literacy in the and follow him on Twitter @aschoenborn.

This month, the #TeachWrite Chat Blog will be sharing the Writing Manifestos of our community. What do you believe about being a writer?  Would you like your Writing Manifesto featured on this blog?  Are you interested in writing for us at another time? More information is available here.


  1. LOVE this! I'm with you and Don Murray, every time I sit I have doubts too. LOVE your manifesto. Thank you for showing up and telling your story here today!

  2. I so needed to hear this line: " A steady drip fills a bucket." There are days when that drip is sometimes nothing but a drop, but knowing that it will someday fill a bucket is such a positive thought. I also liked: "There is no competition - only celebratory moments." I think this reflects on those feelings of inadequacy, or that we are not good enough. Finding the celebration is what I try to do for my students and for myself. Thank you so much for sharing with us, and I hope you will write again with the #TeachWrite community.

  3. Today, my notebook lies empty on my lap and then I read this. I needed to read your words and to remember that writing is what I do. A steady drip... Thanks for writing and reminding us that there is no competition. We should be writing for ourselves, authentically.


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