Thursday, June 14, 2012


The following was written as a piece of Sacred Writing June 9, 2008 during the Southern Colorado Writing Project at Colorado State University-Pueblo.

My fellow SCWP teacher consultants


late starter - late bloomer - saving the best for last.
Middle child

Second wife - first in his heart

Mother of five
Grandmother of seven

Do I dare say writer?

Strong minded - ok, I guess I am really just stubborn and strong willed.
Full of thoughts

Authentic - notice the curly, silver hair

Fun & crazy at times
Drama queen?

Supporter & best friend to my husband

Healer of relationships

Woman of faith

Eclectic - especially in decorating. If I like it, it fits.

Find my identity mostly in my life at home and in my family more than in my career.
Struggled many times in my new identity when I married my husband, moved to his town, and felt I lost mine.


I loved the summer I finally was able to participate in the Southern Colorado Writing Project.  The opportunity to participate in SCWP, a member of the National Writing Project, had long been a goal of mine.  I just never could fit the project into my busy schedule until the summer after I retired.  Being a part of the writing project was one of the most transformative experiences I have ever had personally and professionally.  If you are a teacher and if you ever get a chance to participate in such an initiative, do so.  Just make sure that the writing project that you join is a part of the National Writing Project.  Your teaching and your writing life will never be the same.

Every morning when we first arrived at class, we would find a writing prompt on the board.  This morning writing practice time was called "sacred writing."  I recently found my notebook from that summer.  The writing sample above was one I wrote at that time.

Sacred writing time was just that: sacred.  We were supposed to come into class.  Look at the prompt.  Then, we were to write for 15 minutes until the leader told us our time was up.  Part of the goal of this activity is to model an exercise that teachers can and should implement in their own classrooms.  It is a wonderful activity for beginning a class.  It can be done while the teacher is taking roll.  I think it is best done with the teacher also writing during the 15 minutes.  This way modeling is done by the teacher.

After the 15 minutes are up, the teacher should ask if anyone wants to share.  No response to the reading by others should be done other than to say, "Thank you."  This time is sacred.  The writing is sacred.  It does not have to be shared and should not generate a spoken response.  This builds the writer's confidence when the writer does not have to fear a negative response.

 So many times during sacred writing, I was just getting started with my writing, or just coming up with an idea on how to respond to the prompt when it was time to put our pencils down and stop writing.  Forced focus is not a bad thing.  It causes one to write quickly and capture initial thoughts and impressions.  The goal is not to turn out a polished piece of writing.  This practice not only taught me focus, and it also taught me to recognize that a writer must let go of the idea that every piece of writing is a final draft.  These prompts could in fact become the starting place for larger pieces of writing.  I have always wanted to go back to these writings and see what I might do with them if I took more time and developed the ideas that been generated quickly more in depth.

I guess these responses to prompts are sketches.  How many times do we as writers take the time to sketch?  I don't think I do often enough.  I think my writing could be developed more if I took the time to do some sketching.

For today, I am sharing a quick piece of writing that I wrote four years ago.  How would I respond to this same prompt of "identity" today?  I know the response would be very different.  I guess it is an area of exploration that I can work on in my journal.


Jean said...

I participated in the Southern Maine Writing Project, an offshoot of the Nat'l Writing Project, in the '80's. It changed me as a writer, and it definitely changed me as a teacher of writing. Best of all, it changed my students as writers. I also became a presenter for the SMWP and traveled all over southern Maine, giving presentations on teaching the art of formal writing. (i feel students need to know how to write formal, persuasive essays for school writing prompts, and informal personal essays for themselves and for creative writng classes.) One of the many insights I gained as a participant is that too often students are assigned to write what teachers want to hear, not what students want to say. No wonder so few graduate from formal schooling feeling they have nothing worth writing about.

As you can see, your post hit home with me! I liked our Identity piece. And, I'm sure I wouldn't be a blogger if I hadn't participated in the SMWP.

Rita said...

That's an interesting exercise. Love what you wrote! :)

DJan said...

The first thing I notice about this writing is the innocence of not having lost a child. You are different now, and the person I know now has a heart that has been broken... open to some other place. Thank you for sharing yourself here. I know you are opening to a new and fragile place. Let me know if I can help.

KathyA said...

I loved providing prompts and my students came to love responding to them. I greatly miss this part of teaching. I have always wanted to participate in a collegiate writing program! How wonderful for you!

LC said...

That is such a wonderful exercise.I wonder if that would have worked with my ninth grade English classes I taught the 1970-71 academic year. One year earlier my students would have kept things fairly "clean." A year later and a different town not so much. What would you have recommended to that second-year English teacher?

rosaria williams said...

"Sketches", I like that. I still remember when students were required to write full essays within the 50' class time. If teachers were writing as well, on the same topic, they would understand the frustration, the need to 'sketch' before delving into a subject.

Beth said...

Th identity piece is very interesting. I especially like what you wrote for authentic. I guess I must be authentic too. ;-)

Grandma Yellow Hair said...

So happy I came by here tonight. This was such a interesting post.
I would love to be in a class like this.
This piece you wrote four years ago is a great write.
I so enjoyed reading it.
Thanks for sharing this with us
Love ya

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Fascinating! And how interesting and how true that your identity, if written today, would be different. We all continue to grow and change with the challenges and rewards of age. Who knew way back then what we would become -- and are still becoming?

"Auntie" sezzzzzz... said...

A lovely way to realize, how/that we do change. And isn't it a good thing?

Who would want to be "encased in amber," at a certain early age? Eeeek! How boring. And how boring for our partner too.

"I have made it a rule of my life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy ... you can't build on it; it's only good for wallowing in."
~~Katherine Mansfield

Joanne said...

I love your Identity poem. What an awesome experience! I wish I could be a part of something like freeing It must have felt and how much one can learn there is a great gift!
Blessings, Joanne

Jeanie said...

What a thoughtful, personal and insightful post and poem. Four years -- life changes so many things, doesn't it. Maybe one day, if you haven't already, you'll update that sketch. Yet, I still thing there is much -- if not all -- of you present in that piece several years ago!

Olga said...

So interesting on the level of how life can make such drastic twists on us.
So interesting on the level of how much a shared community means to those who write.
I am always grateful that you are a part of my own writing community.

Arkansas Patti said...

Interesting post. Too bad we all don't do one of those every 10 years. The changes would be interesting. The basics should be the same but life couldn't help but bend several.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Awesome, Sally... I'd love to hear what things you would change today... SO---that's a good 'project' for you!!!!

You said: Struggled many times in my new identity when I married my husband, moved to his town, and felt I lost mine.

This has happened to me BIGTIME. I was divorced for 20 yrs before meeting and marrying George. My sons had me ALL to themselves --even though they are all grown and out of the house...

Once I got married, my life totally changed. I found happiness which I had never had.. I married a wonderful man, very different from their dad.

In my heart, I thought we'd all be one big happy family--but that has never happened. All of our adult children (my 3 and his 2) have never bought into our life and our happiness. I know that I probably made mistakes along the way --but it hurts to say that our marriage had almost totally destroyed our relationships with our children.. Sad --but true...

On the other hand though, George and I are happier together than either of us has ever been in our entire lives... Too bad we can't have it all---but I wouldn't give up my Sweetheart for anyone...


Barb said...

I often practice this kind of spontaneous writing and encourage it with my Grandchildren. Sometimes it's really helpful not to "over-think" and just let the ideas and words flow. I like your identity poem. It's interesting to look back and see how we've changed isn't it?

Maggie May said...

I loved that idea. It seems to be the perfect way to start the day.... unless of course there are dyslexic students there or anyone who is really unable to sit and wrote for any reason.

I bought a book on creative writing once, & one of the exercises that they recommended was to set a pinger and write what you feel and what you hear for five minutes. Its surprising how interesting that is when reading back. Quite descriptive.
I would describe myself as eclectic too. Very much so and I hope that I have some of your qualities too!
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Sandi said...

Hi Sally! I only allowed myself to read a few blogs this morning, and so glad this was on my list! I loved this and I'm going to do this next year. I've done something similar before, but it always morphed into comments and, sadly comments often kill creativity, even in fifth graders.
I thing my daughter might like to try this during her student teaching, so I'm going to send this link to her!
It reminded me of the Sharon Creech book, "Love That Dog".
Thanks for sharing your "Identity" poem. I could relate, on many levels!

Sandi said...

This is the second time I've tried to leave a comment! I hit publish and then, poof, I vanish! I may just email you! But, I loved this post, and the idea of encouraging students to write without fear of comments. The teacher in me just opens her mouth all the time! I give good comments, but maybe more powerful for kids to read and simply form their own thoughts! I hope this posts!

Relyn said...

I love the passionate ways that you pursue things you love.

Dee said...

Dear Sally, thank you for sharing with us a way of living in the present and in Presence and also of working on the craft of writing.

Have you ever heard of "The Artist's Way"? It is a book by Julia Cameron that was published in the early nineties. I've used it several times. There is no morning prompt, but the person who wants to unlock his or her creativity--in what every medium--wakes and then goes to the table and begins to write whatever comes to mind for three pages in longhand.

That book and those pages gave me several ideas for writing.


Terri Tiffany said...

I am glad you didn't have to share it in class--this way you were much more free to write as you felt it come. I like what you wrote--it is a good picture of you from what you say about you.

Keicha said...

As you know, I've always resisted journaling and don't consider myself a writer. Maybe I need to just start giving myself my own 15 minutes of sacred writing time. I think I'll start with an identity piece.

Teachers have so much influence on students and their perception of writing. The method is so important! To this day, I have negative associations with writing because of the 6th grade creative writing group I was in. Remember? The teacher would give us weird subjects to write about and bizarre exercises to make us "think creatively". It completely turned me off to writing for years!

Kay said...

This is truly a beautiful piece of writing, Sally. Your writing class sounds like it was a whole lot of fun and a great growing experience.