Yesterday I responded to a mom in the Groovy Grammar Workshop at Brave Writer about how we break out of “controlled prose.” She asked for a definition of the term, so I wrote a little about encouraging our kids to write UNcontrolled prose…at first. I thought this reply might benefit other writers/teachers of writing, so here is my little spiel.
(Warning: I’m dragging out my soapbox….)
What is meant by “controlled prose” is writing that is so controlled that all light and life is drained from it. It’s just words that fulfill a function rather than words that sing, words that play, words that exclaim and reveal the heart. Controlled prose is grammatically correct but lacks drive and vision and heart–all the good things we LOVE about writing.
We do want to write correctly so that others understand what we mean, but we need to write freely and exuberantly first, then mop up the grammar once the focus, ideas, and heart are firmly in place. Grammar correction is always the last step, never the first step, in the writing process. Writing is messy business, but we tidy things up right at the end of the process, not at the beginning or middle of the process.
If our kids are uptight about writing correctly, they often never write at all, or if they do write, it’s stilted and proper rather than “real”; it’s what other people expect of them rather than an expression straight from their hearts. So at Brave Writer, we move the grammatical correctness to the very last step of the writing process, ignoring the misspellings and punctuation errors and poor grammar until the very end–then it’s a simple process of “mopping” up their writing instead of expecting them to write both creatively AND correctly from the get-go.
(Putting away my soapbox…for now)
So as our kids’ writing coaches, we need to allow the writing process to be just that: a process. It’s gonna be a messy, gobby, free-for-all–kinda like spring cleaning. It’ll get much messier before order starts emerging from all the chaos. But then we unearth a gem or two in our kids’ messy, misspelled run-on sentences, and we point it out and help them to polish it to a shine.
And then we have something beautiful, sparkling, and fresh. And our kids are happy, and we are pleased, and life is good.
But we have to let it all get messy first. That’s how truly good writing happens.