Writing Group #2: Always Read with a Pen in Hand

This week’s Writing Group tip is fast, effective, and easy to implement. Now, it may seem out of place here in our writing group – a strategy about reading. But, we all know and it has been well documented by the giants in our field the reciprocity that exists between reading and writing.

The next habit I bring forward for you to consider is this: Always read with a pen in hand.

This habit will change the way you read, and it will change the way you write. If you don’t have a pen handy, how can you notate the beauty of the author’s words – and remember where to find them later? This is why I still cannot fully get behind digital texts. Yes, I know, lots of platforms offer annotation tools, but it’s just not the same. I want to be able to think, “What was that wonderful line Delia Owens used in Crawdads?” and then scurry to my book, flip through it, scanning my underlines and circles to find just the phrase I was looking for.

How This Will Help YOU Grow as a Writer:

Engaging with a text under the supposition that you will encounter something worth seeing and reading and thinking about again changes the way you read it. This expectancy bifurcates your readers eyes into writers eyes, too. This is one way to read like a writer. This habit will make you think about your reading differently which will, in turn, make you think about your writing differently.

How This Will Help Your STUDENTS Grow as Writers:

See above.

Additionally, haven’t we all said to our kids that we need to live writerly lives in order to be our best writer selves? Well, this is one concrete, tangible strategy that can help young writers (and old ones, too) approach the world – their reading world – like a writer. This encourages the spotting and notating of writer’s craft which we then hope they borrow in their own writing. 

(BONUS: During a writing conference, you could even ask to peek at students’ jots and margin notes to get self-set goals in disguise. Lift them up, shine a light on them, and encourage students to try what that writer did. It’s not cheating; it’s approximating and learning.)

Until next time, inward and onward writers!

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