Professional Learning

Why Teachers May Want to Try Writing as a Hobby

Engaging in writing—whether fiction or nonfiction—has immense benefits, including improved critical thinking and better memory.

March 10, 2021
Maryna Andriichenko / iStock

Have you ever thought about living a writer’s life? It may seem like a luxury that no educator can afford. If you do write for yourself, it might feel like a guilty pleasure. Colleagues may ask how you find the time to engage in the joy of writing. There are many reasons why it’s worth it. There are also many ways to make it more likely to happen.

Whether you’re interested in beginning or you’re reworking your life as a writer, you might want to consider the power of visualization to make lasting change. A first step before taking action could be to see yourself living a writer’s life. Imagine when you would write and where. For instance, you may decide to write in the evening at your kitchen table. Close your eyes, and visualize writing. Think about what you’re doing immediately before you begin writing, and then imagine yourself pulling out your chair and sitting down to write. Think about what you might write, and then imagine writing. If you’re fine-tuning your writing habits, think about what you want to improve upon, and then imagine it happening. Visualization is a technique that allows one to become familiar with an action before making it happen, which also makes the action more likely to occur.

4 Potential Benefits of Taking Up Writing

1. Living a writer’s life may improve the quality of your personal and professional experiences. There are many benefits to writing each day. When we write, we deepen our thinking. For example, I imagine I am in the midst of writing a short story. As I think about what I want to say and put that into writing, I may find gaps in my thinking, work to fine-tune the description of a character, or rework dialogue to bring flow to the piece. Such work exercises my cognitive muscles. Writing forces us to formalize our thoughts and then rework our thinking to make ourselves sharper and better prepared to tackle life’s challenges.

2. Writing serves as an external representation and a memory aid to deepen understanding and construct new meaning. Think about a time when you were reading articles, books, or blogs on a topic of interest. If you add writing into the reading mix, it slows you down so you have the time to consolidate and reflect on your learning. It also gives you a medium in which you can save and then extend your thoughts. If you contribute to your writing on a routine basis, you will have the chance to reread your writing to spark new thinking or ask questions. When you have the writing saved, you can also trace how your thinking has evolved and avoid lost time in forgetting what you considered. A likely by-product is that thinking becomes more efficient.

3. By writing, you may help your students become better writers. Often the art teacher paints, and the music teacher plays. Content-area teachers may act on their craft through writing. Teachers use their writing experience to model for and mentor students. Think about the art teacher. When a student questions how to re-create an image on canvas, the art teacher may suggest a technique they have used in similar situations. It might not be nearly as effective to tell a student to watch a video of how an artist paints and then try out some of their moves. When the teacher has a range of personal experience to share with the student on how to paint, the teacher is an immediate mentor to the student.

Similarly, when a student is writing an argument, the teacher may share their experience in writing along with some techniques that work for them. Demonstrating why and how teachers write in real life allows students to understand the why behind writing. It also solidifies a potentially stronger mentor-mentee relationship as teachers ask students to engage in work they also do themselves.

4. When teachers spend time writing, other areas may become easier. Using our experience to teach writing to students allows our greatest and most powerful instructional resource to be our own experience. In this way, it reduces time spent planning or searching for the “how” to teach writing. It also can make us more attuned in the moment. When talking about writing and connecting with kids around their writing, teacher writers can easily draw from their experience in the teachable moment. Another benefit is that it can grow confidence in instructional practice. Living the life of a writer allows a teacher to further develop their authority in the territory of writing.

Beyond this, it can be easier to decipher meaningful instructional routines and important writing research when one more intimately knows the craft of writing. Finally, with writing come the benefits of reduced cognitive load, consolidated learning, and becoming a more efficient thinker. Daily problems to solve or instructional dilemmas to resolve may come more easily to the disciplined writer over time.

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