Sunday, May 22, 2016

Spring Cleaning

It's a beautiful day on the South Carolina coast, and I'm inside, moving the summery clothes to my bedroom closet and the cooler-weather ones upstairs, out of sight, out of reach. I've dusted, vacuumed, and gotten on hands and knees to wipe baseboards. And now I'm back at the keyboard, feeling utterly accomplished, facing what I've been avoiding - writing.

My second book manuscript of the year is in need of heavy revision, and cleaning house is one of my favorite diversions when deadlines loom. Why? Why do I seek the dirt, the muck, the dust and and spills and misplaced clothes when I'm supposed to be writing?

Because writing is hard. Pat Conroy often spoke of it being painful. Somebody famous once said that in order to write, "just open a vein."

Before opening that vein, I have to do some niggling chores, check boxes off the to-do list, and clear my mind (most times, with a nap). Writing something of significance requires focus and determination. Distractions must be silenced.

We should be mindful that students may also need to do some cleaning, literal or figurative, before settling down to write. Do we give them this opportunity? Or do we demand they focus immediately and crank out whatever it is that we demand?

As we enjoy spring - and look ahead to a summer of renewal - let's also think about cleaning up some of our teaching practices.