How Do We Develop a Writing Identity?

A special thank you goes to Dana Murphy for allowing us to share her blog post, “How Do We Develop a Writing Identity” I support what Dana says on how we can help students develop identities as writers. To make writing meaningful, we need to make it a social experience. When students have a real audience, they start to look forward to writing and see themselves as writers. Keep reading to learn more about Dana’s thoughts on this topic. I am a writer. There was a time in my not-so-distant past when I would never have uttered those words. I didn’t believe them. After all, I had no published work. I was not getting paid to write. How could I call myself a writer? Those two things are still true – I have no published work, and I don’t get paid to write. Yet, I do consider myself a writer today. Why? I have been grappling with this question for some time now. Not so much as it applies to me, but rather how it might apply to our students. I see so many kids who “do” writing workshop. They are engaged and attentive during instruction. They write every day in accordance with whatever writing unit they are currently studying. They share during reflection time. However, they don’t really consider themselves writers the same way they might consider themselves soccer players or ballerinas or video game players. They don’t talk about themselves as writers. They have no writing identity. This is the crux of the matter: how might we help kids build a writing identity? Where does identity come from anyway? When I consider my own writing journey, I realize it was when I finally gave myself time and space to write what was in my heart that I began to consider myself a writer. Specifically, it was when I started blogging and writing stories about my family and my daughters. Once I embraced my own agency as a writer, other factors began to develop as well. I started to make time for writing. I found a real audience for my writing. I started to develop my own writing process. I started to love writing. Eventually, writing became a part of who I am.
Reflecting on my own journey makes me wonder how we could help our students develop writing identities as well. I want our students to leave our classrooms not just with a portfolio of completed writing projects but with the steadfast belief that they are writers with a process, an audience, and a certain agency all their own. All students, not just those with a fondness or a capacity for writing. It is a tall order, I know, but I think maybe it all starts with having choice and the space to write what is in our hearts. ~Dana Murphy