Each of us is experiencing this shared crisis not only as one of many, but as an individual who is coping with a unique set of circumstances. For me, those circumstances include trying to figure out how best to support my students in a way that helps them stay on track with their academics while not unduly stressing them out. That’s a tall order. I worry, a lot. I worry about students who ‘disappear,’ I worry that too many students are doing too little writing and their skills are plummeting, and I worry that too often I myself come too close to running on empty.
One day, while I was mindlessly following links about stress as a sort of ‘break’ from real life, I came across this page from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About a third of the way down the page I found a little section titled, “Ways to Cope with Stress.” For me, the little list of four items offered there was the best thing on the page. It got me thinking – which was a welcome relief from the empty-headed mindset that had set me on the path of clicking for answers. The list, I decided, was a good fit for writers and teachers, and I set myself the task of adapting the advice to the context of building skills as a writer and as a teacher. The result of that work – on the first piece of advice – is below.
The CDC advice –
Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting. (CDC)
Here’s my take-away for writers and teachers –
Do Something Else Repeatedly: Write
Checking media can be a habit, and when you want to change a habit the first step is to replace it with another habit. Writing, as a habit, offers great payback:
- It is therapeutic – you’ll carve out personal time to check in with yourself, think your own thoughts, and come up with ideas you wouldn’t have had – or known you had – otherwise.
- It will improve your ability to get your thoughts on the page, and therefore your skill as a writer.
- As a teacher, you have the opportunity to create primary documents that you and your peers can consult and use for lessons on history, health, writing, etc. For example, you can set aside part of your writing time to write a letter to your future students. What is it you’ll tell them about this global experience?
3 Simple Steps to Cultivating Writing as a Habit
- Gather your basic tools – something to write on and something to write with – so they are ready for you.
- At least once a day when you go to check your phone for news or find yourself heading to Facebook to keep tabs on the feed, say to yourself – “First, I’ll write half a page.”
- Go write. Sometimes you’ll only write a scanty half page, other times you’ll find yourself on a roll – go with it.
Remember, the goal is health. Smile to yourself when you’ve written, and smile when you realize the day is gone and you haven’t written. On those no-writing days (and there will be no-writing days), say to yourself, “Tomorrow, friend; I’ll meet you on the page tomorrow.”