Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Road to Writer: A Manifesto by Dr. Mary Howard

I am a writer with a rich and joyful writing life!
There I said it and it feels so good considering my status as “writer” has been hard earned.

My journey led me down a painful writerly road to recovery of childhood memories riddled with metaphorical and literal red marks that distorted my view. For too long, I allowed past voices in my head to decry my role as writer so I use that word proudly these days. As a result, I take labeling any child as a writing failure seriously because I know that children are still being dubbed as writer haves and have nots.
So what does the writing life of a recovered “failure” look like?

After a long journey of unexpected twists and turns, my writing life is as unique as I am - a lovely, messy, exhilarating, painfully glorious unexpected blessing with meandering detours to all destinations in between. I am grateful for each stopping point along the way, even those that sometimes derail me.
For far too many years, I felt a sense of shame that I didn’t have an easily defined writing persona wrapped up in a neat little bow since I assumed that hard and fast rules were a writer’s membership fee. I likely defy what one might imagine when pulling forth visions of a “writer” since my writing life is much like my day-to-day life: one big fast-paced frenzied celebratory blur of never-ending motion. I don’t keep a writing journal; opting to jot messy disorganized scribbles on scraps of paper (which I often lose). I don’t have a sacred writing space since I write in airplanes, airports, coffee shops, restaurants, indoors, outdoors, in my office, or wherever I land for the day. I write sitting down, standing up, on the floor and laying down with a computer perched on my belly. I write where it’s noisy and I write where it’s quiet and all levels in between. I write with a pencil in my hands more than my fingers on a keyboard. I don’t have a set schedule and I prefer Twitter and Facebook over a formal blog.
I’m well aware that I don’t look or act much like a writer but my writing life is uniquely me. But after all these years I celebrate that uniqueness because I have come to believe that being a writer is about honoring what works for that writer.

I believe that we must let go of our perception that there is one way to write and accept that whatever works is good enough. I am living proof that there is no one-size-fits-all view for what it means to be a writer. I am forever grateful for this messy, exhilarating, painfully glorious unexpected blessing that has taken me on a meandering detour to all destinations in between. I have at last come to know that I deserve to call myself a writer and I am filled with joy anew every time I use that word.
The truth is that I don’t write to publish, although that has been an exciting side effect of my later than usual launch into the writing world. I prefer writing that happens when my love for teaching beckons me. I write when teaching taps me on the shoulder and compels me to give what is inside an outer voice so I can share it with the world. I go to bed at night wondering what writing will beckon me the next day and wake up excited to know what writing awaits me.

I write when I have a professional itch I need to scratch. I write when I can’t hold the thoughts in my head any longer.

I write when I don’t even know what I’m going to write about.

I write because I trust the voices in my head and hold on for dear life to see where they might lead me.

I write in 280 characters on Twitter and long ‘passionate rants’ on Facebook.

I write to understand.

I write to reflect.

I write to make sense of this beautiful work I have loved for more than four and a half decades.

I write because I love being a teacher….
And I write because I must.

Mary Howard is a powerhouse literacy consultant and author. She has been described as a “teachers’ teacher” with insight into the realities of schools and a unique ability to translate research into practice. An educator for over four decades, Mary combines extensive experience as a special education, Title 1 and Reading RecoveryTM teacher and continues to provide in-school support as a literacy consultant and coach. She is the author of three books from Heinemann including RTI from All Sides: What Every Teacher Needs to Know (2009) and Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters (2012). 

Mary also co-moderates #G2Great Twitter chat every Thursday night @DrMaryHoward with Jenn Hayhurst and Amy Brennan and can be found on Facebook at Mary C Howard.

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. There is so much to love in this post, but mostly I love that the words live and breathe the unique Mary Howard who wrote them. You carry with you every day a joy that is contagious. I'm so glad you became a writer because through that journey, we met. Writing connects us. Thanks for sharing your manifesto with us.

  2. It's so clear you're a passionate writer from this magnificent post. I love the way you describe yourself as a writer--that you've given yourself permission to write anywhere, whenever you feel like it, on any topic that interests you. Bravo! What a great model for other writers.

  3. "I believe that we must let go of our perception that there is one way to write and accept that whatever works is good enough." Let's shout this line out loud and clear! Beautiful, thoughtful post - loved reading it - going back to read it again! Thanks for sharing - for being a writer!

  4. Mary, your genuine, honest style of writing is a gemstone and a great model for those seeking to become a writer. There is humbleness in what you write and yet so much magic.


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