Brave Writers, Brave Mothers
When I attended the state homeschool convention seven years ago, I spoke as the owner of “The Writing Compass.” I didn’t like the name. I’d spent months scribbling alternatives, none of which worked for me. The idea of a compass sort of went with jungle, as in, The Writer’s Jungle, but it felt stilted and out of focus.
Grudgingly, I moved forward anyway. That first afternoon, I stood in a room full of mothers, giving my workshop called “Rescuing Reluctant Writers.” I made the point that freewriting (the practice of writing to a timer without attention to grammar, spelling or structure) could release blocked kids into writing.
As I spoke, I became impassioned:
We want free writers…
We want brave writers…
And immediately as the words escaped my mouth, I knew. I knew that my company had the wrong name and that even though all my materials had “writingcompass.com” emblazoned across the front of them, and my website was not even six months old, I’d have to change the name to “Brave Writer” when I got home. Which I did. Which was confusing for about a year and a half.
But I’m so glad I did.
The words “brave” and “free” combined with “writer” instantly showed me the deficits of “The Writing Compass.” The original name implied that what I’m about is writing, as though the materials and classes were sources of writing instruction. But the truth was and is, I care far more about writers. Writers need nurturing, permission to risk, empathy, support, guidance and praise. They need freedom and space. They need, in short, an advocate to support them as they take the risks of writing.
Writing, on the other hand, is that sterile term for what writers do. It’s the glass ceiling, the too-tight jeans, the healthy diet, the straight-backed chair, the rappelling rope over the edge of a cliff.
Writing advice is everywhere (and plenty of it good, even). Yet still too many homeschooled kids and mothers floundered when they tried to implement it. Oh they knew lots about writing. What they didn’t know is how to get it to happen. Who would tell them about writers, about the experience of being a writer and how it felt on the inside to dredge up words from the depths and then upchuck them onto paper? Who would show these budding writers that what they thought the most about was already valuable and worth sharing with an audience? Who would tell mothers how to be fanatical fans of their most beloved writers while the spelling and punctuation dribbled off the page?
I suppose a second name for my company could be “Brave Mothers.” Mothers needed support, guidance and admiration for their heroic efforts, too.
As I thought about Brave Writer this morning, it occurred to me that even the title of this company took over a year of freewriting before I got it right. I had to wallow in the complexity of what I wanted to offer, I had to meet mothers and share my ideas and explore what other people were saying about writing, teaching and homeschooling first. As I did, the lens focused.
The French have a wonderful verb that fits the narrowing experience: preciser (pronounced: pre-see-zay). It means “to make precise.” You take what is in unclear, muddled form and “precise” it – clarify, narrow, specify it. That’s what happens over a period of time as you give your attention to an idea, a thought, a view, a perspective. First you get it out in any form you can, living with it for awhile, and then, as you discover more of what you mean and want, you “precise” it.
After seven and a half years of working with writers and their moms, I like “Brave Writer” even more than I did the first time I “accidentally” uttered the two words together. Brave Writers and Brave Mothers – that’s what we’re about.