Private writing

Earlier this week I went a faculty development workshop on using technology in teaching. Michael Stephens was presenting on how one can use Twitter and blogging to create a constant conversation among the class about the course material. A lot of this was review for me, but I found the idea of a very public and constant conversation potentially really exciting for student engagement. So, for instance, I decided to give my students in my course-integrated instruction sessions my Twitter name and my Google Voice number for texts. These are first year students, so I don’t know how many of them are on Twitter, but I know they text. Note I did not give them my real cell phone number. There’s student engagement, and then there’s creepiness.

What struck me this week is that for all my fascination with the public and the social in media, lately I have personally been most satisfied by the most private of media. Since January 1 of this year I have written every single day in a private paper journal for at least five minutes. Over the years I’ve been a sporadic journal writer, and for the last 2 years I’d only written in my journal a handful of times. Some say that blogging helps hone the craft of writing, but that never has been true for me. For me, and probably for most people, writing starts with the private and moves toward the public. When I was a teenager and throughout college I wrote very personal things on my various blogs, but that was, in retrospect, not such a good idea. So I haven’t been worrying about my public writing at all (other than a book review, deadlines being what they are), but focusing on the writing that takes places in the intensely personal space of paper, pen and thought. By taking the pressure off myself, I am getting excited by engaging with words, even in the high pressure and intense conversational worlds, for instance, Twitter. I just hope that student writers (of any age) are finding the same thing, and not being made to write everything in blogs or tweets, and that young writers still have some private writing spaces in which to develop.