What is "real writing" and where does it come from?
Link to the writing on "reports," with examples of school reports (practice writing) and actual informational reports.
Sandra Dodd (on Always Learning, August 2018, post #78205):
It will take a few posts, over a few days, or longer, for me to bring some things I wanted to present to help readers think about “real writing.”
Lisa Celedon wrote this (in a longer post elsewhere):
Thanks for all the years of help and encouragement and good, thought-provoking discussion. The level of critical analysis in this discussion and always learning is more sophisticated, clear, and useful than the critical analysis in my graduate level literature classes. 🙂 They've really helped me be a better parent and person.
Writing and discussions in school are a sort of test, and a competition. Which student will say the cleverest thing? Which essay or report will be the clearest, maybe say something new and different, and not have too many errors of mechanics or technicalities? But the professor’s probably not wanting to learn anything new, and the students are trying to get the highest scores with the least effort.
Meanwhile, among the mostly-unemployed moms discussiing parenting and unschooling over here, the writing is honest, heartfelt, offered up in hopes that it will help unseen, uncounted others. Or hoping it might help one other, who hasn’t even joined the group yet, who will come across it later, someday.
“Real,” for me, means real-life. Writing that’s honest and practical and that will be received by some people who will be thinking as they read it of whether and how they could apply the ideas in their own real lives, that very day, or week, or season. Or someday. Or comparing it to what they know and letting it strengthen their own existing ideas and practices.
More to come from me later, but if others here have already brought so many good examples that mine are superfluous, that would be just fine. 🙂
A couple of weeks ago, I did a First Aid course. At the end, the instructor said if we went online and wrote a Google review, we were in the running for a $50 shopping voucher — for whoever wrote the weeks best review.
So, ever the bargain hunter, I came home and wrote a review for them.
I won the prize — I told my husband, and he said 'Well, no wonder yours won, you spend most of the day writing to Moms on Facebook!'
I hadn't, until then, ever really thought that responding on unschooling groups was practicing my writing skills, but I guess it is 😊
-=-I won the prize - I told my husband, and he said 'Well, no wonder yours won, you spend most of the day writing to Moms on Facebook!'
“Practicing” isn’t fair to what you’re doing. 🙂 Or maybe I want to remind people not to think of it as the kind of practicing piano teachers are talking about.
-=-I hadn't, until then, ever really thought that responding on unschooling groups was practicing my writing skills, but I guess it is 😊-=-
You’ve been writing and becoming a better writer because you liked the writing and (maybe) the effect, or the “realness” of it. When writing has an audience, or can have an effect, that’s way better feedback than a writing teacher writing “Good job! A”
I’ve competed with other monkeys for the prize of a teacher writing “A” on a paper and handing it back. Sometimes I was learning, and sometimes I was learning that some teachers only want one kind of thing, and that’s the new trick to perform. Lots and lots of work goes into those contests to avoid having a teacher write a “B” of a “C” (or worse).
Most of that is “practice writing.”
When you help unschooling parents, some of them might give you the equivalent of a D or an F. Some of them give me the equivalent of SCREW YOU and walking out and telling other people I’m horrible. Some of those didn’t want to unschool anyway. Some of those come back later, because the agitation caused them to obsess about what “dumb” things they had read, or had caused them to stuff it all down, but life caused it to pop back up, when their kids were unhappy after a while.
So immediate feedback is the only reward in school. The writing has a deadline. The grades have a deadline. End of semester, all done.
Writing for unschoolers is different.
There are some people who haven’t been born yet who will, someday, read things Jo Isaac wrote, and other people here. It might be hard for them to find it, or it might not be. But good ideas, written well, can outlive the writers.
==“Practicing” isn’t fair to what you’re doing. 🙂 Or maybe I want to remind people not to think of it as the kind of practicing piano teachers are talking about.==
You are right — it's not really 'practicing'
==You’ve been writing and becoming a better writer because you liked the writing and (maybe) the effect, or the “realness” of it.. ==
==When you help unschooling parents, some of them might give you the equivalent of a D or an F. ==
Also true! Yesterday someone told me my 'advice' was 'dangerous' and 'the worst advice I've ever seen on a homeschooling group'!
Said people weren't reading carefully though. And the second one clearly hadn't realised she was in an unschooling group, not a homeschooling group!
Sandra, quoting Jo, and then...
-=-Also true! Yesterday someone told me my 'advice' was 'dangerous' and 'the worst advice I've ever seen on a homeschooling group’!-=-
WHAT the heck…
-=-Said people weren't reading carefully though. And the second one clearly hadn't realised she was in an unschooling group, not a homeschooling group!-=-
I’ve seen some god-awful advice on homeschooling groups. 🙂 And on unschooling groups. And when I’m an admin or the owner, I say “Hey… bad advice” (when I catch it, and if I don’t, someone else usually does).
The second one!? Two people didn’t appreciate you!? 🙂
I hope their families are happy anyway, and that they remember your advice in case things happen to make them want to relax and risk some danger later on!
I’ve been told some crazy stuff. I’ve been cursed. 🙂 It didn’t work. I wasn’t psychically crushed or anything.
I saved a a couple of them, and a couple shared by others, here: SandraDodd.com/curses
Consider how powerful your writing must be, Jo, for someone to resort to that much to try to keep others from reading what you wrote. 🙂
I consider, when people curse me, that they think I’m a potent and dangerous entitiy. And they only got that from reading what I wrote. Probably not very closely, or with much openness.🙂 But still, somehow it scared them.
I’m not trying to be scary. I’m trying to pick ideas up and turn them over and see if they work, how they work, how they might be tweaked to work better.
About "being a writer" (from an online exchange in 2004), someone had suggested that people who wake up wanting to write are writers. Others had other ideas. Some of my commentary:
I wake up wanting to write almost every day. And
most days I want hot tea. So I'm a tea drinker and
Some people can write "really well" in a technical
way. Good paragraphs, nice word choice, good
pacing, great spelling, elegant punctuation. It
happens here on the message boards sometimes that
someone comes along and is kinda dazzling with a
first or second post, and then after a while you
see the person doesn't have a friggin' CLUE what
she's allegedly claiming to try to say, and never
had anything to share, just wanted a channel for
some kind of well-punctuated outpouring of
That's not writing.
Sometimes someone comes along and puts a really
short post, not spelled perfectly well, not
necessarily full of complete text-book-worthy
sentences, and yet the thing she has written is a
profound little life-changing idea that other
homeschoolers will share around and that might
cause them to change they way they approach their
day, or week, or life.
THAT is some damned good writing.
. . . .
But about writing, like dancing, there's
technically proficient and then there's inspired
and inspiring, and they're not always both in the
same place in the same time.
Sandra (here, which continued from this first page)
About real writing, Sandra Dodd, at Always Learning, June 2012
My e-mail isn't going out right for some reason, and as I was starting to respond to an e-mail (from someone on this list), I realized I could write and write and she wouldn't get a response. Then I thought it was useful to others, too, so here it is:
-=-I've always thought of myself as a lousy writer -- funny that that is changing too in this path toward radical unschooling, as my idea of myself is becoming less and less negative) -=-
You could write about that, at the beginning of your presentation.
I don't think it's that your thoughts about yourself made you think the same old writing was better. I think you've been writing more, and for a real audience, about things that were important to you and that they actually needed to know, and wanted to read. That is real writing, in the real world. Because of that your writing probably IS better.
All the writing students do for teachers is pretend, practice writing. Every report written in school is a practice report, not a real report. Kids are writing about something that's already known, for people who don't really want to know. A real report is like this:
Windsor Ox Roast (Queen's Diamond Jubilee, 2012)
Even if just one person reads it who thinks it's interesting, I've provided information that they couldn't get another way. I was an eye witness. And I link to other reports from other years.
This is a real report, because I was reporting what I saw and what I knew about what I saw:
Beacon Lit in Staines
If you write about what you have done at your house, and what you thought about it, that's reporting about family relationships, child development, the results of different methods and ideas put into practice.
If you share ideas on Always Learning, that's analysis and collaboration and the clarification of other people's ideas. Sometimes that's rephrasing and sometimes that's finding the seed of truth in a jumble of data. Sometimes it's sorting emotion from evidence.
Writing to real people for real purposes improves writing in real ways.
(about the breadth of what "writing" is)