So I signed up for http://campnanowrimo.org/ without having much of clue about what I was doing. I had no ‘project’; still don’t really. But, in an effort to plug away at writing, I had a rare spur of the moment fit of spontaneity and thought what the hell. I named my project with the lovely vague title of, ‘writing a collection of mainstream poetry’, and commenced.
Camp NaNoWriMo (for those who are as clueless as I was a few days ago) is a world wide online writing community. During the month of April it challenges you to write every single day and record your progress (in a word count). Some people have set themselves a challenge of writing a whole novel, or a screen play; some have a word-count challenge of 50,000 words. Many people ‘camping’ there are proper authors, bonefide writers. They call themselves writers- because that’s what they are. I tried not to allow this to intimidate me; I shuffled into the camp, lurked behind a little tree and hoped no one would notice me. I haven’t (and won’t) call myself a ‘writer’; I have no commissions- I don’t even have a project or a plan. But, I do enjoy writing! I decided to be brave enough to hang out unobtrusively; I would pitch my tent far enough away from the buzz of ‘proper writers’ and try to absorb knowledge from the experts. I set myself a word challenge of 5,000 words- it’s doubtful I will achieve that; and I began to write. So far I have written two poems (442 words in total- not that I’m feeling the pressure or anything).
I have realized recently just how important writing is to me. It has become more than a hobby. I have always written cathartically, without much discipline, and usually in direct response to whatever I am feeling at the time. My writing; in particular the writing I have kept private; reflects this; it’s a rather narcissistic purge- much of it now makes me cringe when I read it. But, at the time of writing it; the process of organising those words into poetry, prose, shouty statements and sentimental metaphors; was as necessary to me as my first cup of coffee every morning- it restored my equilibrium. I love that writing does this for me, that it makes sense of my head; that it almost has its own brain. Sometimes when I finish something, and then read it back for the first time, I don’t recognise it; it’s like someone else has written it- how amazing is that?
Anyway, I digress; back to Camp NaNoWriMo. You might be wondering how I managed to sign up for something that I knew nothing about. Well, this process has partly evolved organically, and partly out of a little tentative productiveness on my part. I began writing my blog a few months ago; my initial plan was to blog about education issues from the personal perspective of being both a teacher and a parent- I enjoyed doing this and still do. I knew nothing about blog writing, it was a huge learning curve! I suddenly found myself in the ‘whole new world’ that is Twitter- this platform has been a mixed blessing (mainly positive)- the education community on Twitter are exceptionally knowledgeable, the debates are fiercely passionate. Twitter has prompted me to research these debated issues privately and develop my own subject knowledge; to think outside the box that is my own little classroom. I am grateful for that! Education, like many professions, is ever evolving; I don’t want to rest on my laurels, I have no problems with challenging my thinking.
and here’s the thing…
When your entire cohort of Twitter followers/following comrades are ALL teachers and educationalists fiercely debating education (all day and all night) , the politics of education and the many, many different theories of education; it can become absolutely, relentlessly, and all consumingly exhausting. I found myself becoming increasingly overwhelmed by the brilliance of others, worried about joining conversations, wary if my opinion contradicted the debate. I fell into a couple of ‘Twitter-Traps’ and became devoured by the wolf-pack which I found more stressful than I care to admit. This isn’t me, it’s not who I am; politician, freedom-fighter, revolutionary, academic- these are not tags I associate with myself. I’m much more a wallflower than a player. Eavesdropping the debate and learning from it is far more my thing than joining in with the collective shout; and taking what I learn (or discarding it) back into the classroom is, for me, far more meaningful.
So what of my blog?
Well interestingly that has changed as my relationship with Twitter has moved on. As I felt myself withdraw from engaging (eavesdropping) with the big education debates being conducted from all angles I also stopped writing about my own personal experience as teacher. I started to be more selective about what I wanted to ‘learn’ from Twitter; I started to know which lead professionals I identified with, and spoke sense in my professional language, and who to avoid. Part of the rationale behind reducing what I post about education is a loss of confidence on my part- and the reality that what I write is actually being read by (not that many, let’s face it- but, read nonetheless) people. I questioned the validity and relevance of it. My posts on education are a personal reflection; not theoretical or academic, not big and certainly not clever. There are no references to science, it contains no statistics, it hasn’t really got a point to prove. So instead, I cosied up with my likeminded few, (#napchat, #OptimisticEd- you all know who you are), continued to tap into conversation that interests me about education and I started to fill the rest of my Twitter feed with conversation that interests me about the rest of my life. I am, after all, not just ‘teacher’- sometimes I like to pretend I am a writer too!
(And this post is 1004 words- pressure is off for today’s Camp NaNoWriMo count! Whoop)