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  • Autumn Sullivan

Writing Isn't Math

I think the way we teach people to write in this country is all wrong.


We focus on grammar, spelling, on 5-part essays with a proper thesis and summarizing conclusion.


We teach English like it's math. Like there is a right answer you can get to, on your first try, if you just work the problem's steps correctly.


That's not how great writing happens. That's how boring, stiff, everybody-hates-doing-it writing happens.


Writing isn't MATH. It's ART.


Writing isn't about following the steps to get the answer. It's about experimenting with the tools and materials available to you.


Writing is about sketching a rough idea, testing color palettes to find the tone you want, then layering colors and textures over and over until you like the result.


We grade kids on doing the steps. Worse, we grade their sketch, their first draft, as if it was a final work. As if it could be right or wrong in that state. As if it were a math answer.


This is my favorite part of coaching "non-writers". Inviting them to see writing differently, as a form of play, rather than a technical skill they do not understand.


I love watching people learn to forgive the shitty first draft, to focus on story and details rather than spelling anxiety or punctuation panic.


Writing is art, and art is play.


You don't follow steps to learn how to play; you play to learn what works for you.

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