How Do You Learn to Write?

A week ago marked the end of an intense Bloggers U class from WordPress that was called Writing 101.There must have been over 130 people registered for the class, with about 110 actively participating.  Each day we were given a writing prompt, or a topic to write about; we also received a “twist,” which could be anything, such as telling a story in the voice of a twelve-year-old, or a particular length–no more than 100 words, or at least 400 words, or pretending the story was being told to a perfect stranger on a train, or… well, you get the idea.  Two of the hardest assignments involved a prompt of expressing a greatest fear and discussing something that made us anxious.  Many of the participants had to set these two assignments aside for a day or two because, as many comments indicated, the topics were either too difficult to deal with, or decisions needed to be made about an anxiety or fear each of us were willing to share.  Prompts about a favorite pet or a loved object were much easier to handle.  And some people found that an open topic (“write about anything at all for 20 minutes without stopping for spelling or grammar corrections”) were the most difficult.

For quite some time, I thought about these and other prompts.  Some prompts did not lend themselves easily to a story–sure, some people were able to come up with a story right away, or were able to take another’s point of view to write.  For many of us, both the prompts and the twists were difficult.  Other people wrote right away, and I was amazed at how quickly words could pour from their fingers into the open writing space.  Some people found some assignments too heart-wrenching to write about immediately, and put the assignment aside for days or even weeks.  Today is the last day to catch up on assignments missed, and to comment on any new or old posts that we could not get to right away.  I figure I made enough comments now–encouragement, minor stylistic changes that would make stories stronger, that kind of thing–and so yesterday was the last day I read anything that was posted this late.

Despite all the difficulties with prompts and twists, most of us managed to cobble out an assignment on time most days, or no more than a day or two late.  Some people found themselves sharing their souls in public for the first time ever.  Thus, this turned out to be a class that was not for the faint of heart, and is perhaps one of the reasons we ended up losing members as time went on.

We had writers from all over the world, which meant that English was not their first language, so all of the assignments became that much more difficult for them, especially if their culture frowns on baring one’s soul.  Other people never mastered some of the basic aspects of English grammar–and most of these were English speakers!–or used a “street” voice or other vernacular to tell their stories.  To me, this was their own personal style, and I kept stylistic criticisms to myself.  A few people used poetry as their medium of choice, and at least two participants were more inclined to use photography or graphic arts to share their stories.  As I said, this was not an easy class, and there was much variation in style and ability.

For some strange reason, although I meant to use a blogging sight I created a few years ago for practicing my writing but never actually used before, my writing defaulted to my main blog site that was dedicated mostly to topics on Education.  I realized that, even though I had (and continue to have) a lot of thoughts on education, as the years passed I had less and less to say, found fewer and fewer blogs on education I thought were interesting enough to share when I couldn’t come up with my own topics, and I stopped blogging on anything even approaching regularity of some sort.  I was too busy, or I couldn’t get the words down right, or… There was always an excuse.  The writing class gave me no excuses, and instead of trying to fit my writing into the purpose of my blog, I ended up simply reacting to the prompts and twists and continued posting on my education site.

After a week or so, I realized that I was learning, and that one of the purposes of my teaching blog was to deal with issues of teaching and learning.  I finally posted a blog that explained that, in my mind, what I was posting was how I learned–my journey through the learning process that could be used by any teachers still reading my blog to use creatively to teach their own students, or to see how I improved my own writing style and learn for themselves.  Of course, it didn’t help that I often forgot to post the prompt and twist, either at the beginning of the piece or the end; so there may have been a lot of confusion about why I was posting a particular piece of writing. The reality, of course, is that I had lost followers along the way when I went long periods of time without posting, and picked up very few readers along the way.  Readers often find blogs using searches on a particular topic, and often choose not to follow a site with only one or two articles that relate to what they need.

But that is beside the point.

At the end of the class, I posted an item asking for advice. Do I continue using this site for education, or do I change it into what the sight name implies: just my ramblings?  There was a mix of responses, from keeping this blog about learning, but maybe change it to learning about writing, to separating the two blogs and making this site just for general thoughts and topics, to keeping both sites as education-oriented blogs.  It took a while to decide, but decide I did.

My decision is this: although my other site is geared more toward educational professionals, I think I should make it into a more general education site.  This site, then, can be used for writing practice–perhaps indicating what prompt was used from other sources or even something I read in the newspaper or a book–and playing with different twists to address the prompts.  Thus, it truly becomes more about how I learn to improve my writing, and what I do to accomplish my goal.

And my old lady ranting page will remain with , where all my reflections on aging will go, with no particular prompt and no particular voice.  We’ll see where the three blogs go.  Obviously, I won’t be blogging to each site every day, but I hope to finally get into a schedule, such as blogging on education at (Teacher Talk) on Mondays, practicing and learning about writing here at under the category Eleanore’s Ramblings on Wednesdays (or maybe Thursdays, since I take drawing lessons on Wednesdays), and sharing my thoughts on aging and my family and friends on (Li’l Ole Lady Press) on Fridays.

Or some other schedule that keeps me focused and writing.  I’ll let you know…


About DrEMiller

Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT). Home: Sint Maarten. K-12 teacher for 13 years (Special Education for 10 years); Post-secondary educator since 2002; Education consulting since 1995. When teaching, held teaching certificates in K-12 special education, reading specialist; and secondary social studies. Doctorate: Educational Psychology Programmer/analyst for 10 years, including project management and training of corporate execs.
This entry was posted in Blogging U, writing, Writing101 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to How Do You Learn to Write?

  1. Pingback: Leibster Award nominations – Awards, huh, good god y’all … #2 | Word Shamble

    • DrEMiller says:

      Thanks for the reminder about the Versatility Award. Meant to respond to this, then the “small writers’ group” took up more time than I anticipated, and then I just plain forgot. So sorry!!

  2. ivaberanek says:

    Hello, I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award – 🙂

  3. DrEMiller says:

    You know, I don’t think I ever learned your given name, and I’m reluctant to call you Finkelstein. I’m just plain old Ellie. But to reply to your comment, this blog used to link to other sites/specific blogs and have a running automatic post from sources like the National Center for Education Statistics (US) and a learning disabilities site, as well as similar things. Those seem to have disappeared with the various updates to WP, so I’ll have to go back and perhaps either choose a different theme or check the settings page for this one so that I can make those other auto-posts re-appear. The links to my other sites — or at least topics of interest — are across the top of my page,, directly under the sunflowers.
    Or are you thinking I should link back to particular posts on the other sites that might be of interest? Or on this site when talking about particular assignments?
    Either way, thanks for your suggestions. They are always very helpful to me. Keep on blogging, with an occasional one in English, as the Google Dutch translator is more difficult to understand than just using my Dutch/English dictionary for each word!! Please stay in touch so I don’t have to miss interactions with you!!

  4. finkelstein says:

    Intelligent reflection on the learning curve of writing101! Fits the topic of this blog well. You could add a cross link to the previous posts you’ve mentioned to have more readers on that post.

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