Tuesday, December 1, 2015

#SOL15: Writing, Agency, and Colonization

Blue Ridge Mountains III (M.A. Reilly, 2009)

This morning I withdrew an article that required some revision before being published.  Originally the article was 12,000 words and I whittle it down to about 8,000 at the insistence of the editors who have been patient and the peer reviewers who have been somewhat helpful.  And although I have never not returned a manuscript that was accepted or accepted with revisions prior to this morning, I did so today.

With Rob's care and my responsibilities, priorities shift and time feels far more constrained.  I do plan to revise the essay again as I want to see it finished and see what it is I must learn. I realize though that presently such work will need to wait as I just do not have the clarity of thought to write academically and I know that this work is far from done.

I don't know what I most want to say and so I have said a lot of things not worth reading. As John Cage might say, "I have nothing to say" and unfortunately I am saying it (over and over). I do realize that there is something there that is important and I am missing it, for now.


I think about this authorial freedom to wade into a work or set it aside and think about my son in high school where such options are rarely afforded, if ever.  Yes, I am confident his teachers would make exceptions for him especially now as he struggles with all that is happening at home--but the agency would reside with his teachers to a larger extent and that is highly problematic--especially for writers, thinkers, doers.

Good writing requires thought.
Better writing requires agency.


Agency is more important than the myriad of lessons taught via mini lessons, focus lessons, workshop lessons and the like. The right to determine the trajectory of a work is a large part of the writing.  I wonder where that happens at school in these days of Common Core, non-organic workshops, and those units of study that come pre-made, written for teachers to enact as if teachers and students were interchangeable cogs.  This is the very definition of being colonized.

Hopefully there is some young writer in some US classroom testing his or her agency, helping the teacher to understand that the more important lesson is one we do not teach directly.


  1. I so agree Mary Ann. The more I write the more I wish I could go back into my classroom and provide my students even more thinking time to slow down the process even if it's at odds with the ed reformers of today. From what I'm hearing there's no time for writing to learn, to think. As much as that process of writing and revising cam make you pull your hair out, it's so rewarding to keep plugging away. :)
    Digital Bonnie

  2. Thanks BK, will do. Revision is never so satisfying as when it is done.

  3. Mary Ann, I haven't been here in a while and was delighted to find you here today. Your writing is always so perceptive and has a level of depth that brings me into a place of wisdom. We all need agency to buoy us as we write. Lovely, lovely thought-provoking words.

  4. Mary Ann, thanks for this thoughtful post. Your comment about being able to be in control over the trajectory of our writing so rings true. Workshops seem to begin with agency at the core, but somehow as the grade levels go up, with the pressures of grading,it seems the agency is lost. When we feel we are wandering with what we want to say, when we are just not in the best space for writing, the best gift to the writing we can give, is to put it away and let it rest for a while. Thanks for the reminder. I applaud your courage, and wish you strength for your journey.

  5. I heartily, adamantly agree with your statement,"Agency is more important than the myriad of lessons taught via mini lessons, focus lessons, workshop lessons and the like. The right to determine the trajectory of a work is a large part of the writing."
    I treasure the young writer interviewed by Lucy Calkins in the first days of her graduate research with Donald Graves. In a video clip, curated by Thomas Newkirk and Penny Kittle in their book, "Children Want to Write" there's a great scene. A girl is explaining to Lucy that sometimes she doesn't feel like a piece of her writing needs to be changed. And sometimes she wants to revise. At home, she explains, her mother is in charge of the house. But in writing class, the girl explains that she is "the mother of my story."

    1. The mother of my story is so powerful. Love that.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.