I had my first day as a teacher’s assistant today. I’m helping the 3rd grade, and also supervising some of the break time (some of the former-4th-grade-now-5th-grade recognized me and made a point to tell me about their cool stories that they’re working on which is AWESOME) and I’m feeling much better about how all this is going to work out. I did get one heck of a surprise today though.
I’d always assumed that Fear of the First Draft was something that happened to writers in adolescence. So I was very shocked to discover today, during the writing period, that even 8-year-olds can fall prey to this pitfall. I was shocked when I asked students “You look stuck, what’s going on?” to hear:
“I have to pick the right idea and I don’t know which one is right.”
“I can’t start because I don’t know what the middle is and I need to know.”
*After erasing an entire paragraph* “What I wrote wasn’t good enough.”
It really surprised me. I understand the fear — for a long time, I was afraid to write something down unless I was confident it would come out perfectly. And I’ve met SOOOOO many writers that find starting the hardest part, because they’re worried that the first draft won’t be any good. Here’s a big secret…first drafts are NEVER good. Or at least, not as good as they will be once you revise it. The nature of the first draft, the purpose, is simply to exist. To get the process started. You can’t go on a journey until you step out the door, but all you have to do is open the door. You don’t have to finish the journey with the first step.
I didn’t learn to let go of my fear of the first draft until I learned to value the (often painful) process of revision. I’m not sure how to convey to a student that hasn’t even begun that they don’t need to fear the first draft. They just need to write.
Have any of you had this problem? What would you recommend to a child that is struggling the way you have?