Reluctant Writers Writing Writing Challenges

Find The Spark: How I Handle Sparse Writing

Can we talk about sparks? 

Of course we can. Because this is my blog, and the wonderful thing about personal blogs is you can talk about whatever you want. 


But don’t get too carried away because it’s only phenomenal power inside your own head. Which we all know that mileage will vary according to the head. 


Sparks. I have a point.

See, one day my teen started an essay project with a freewrite. At this point we’d been through this exercise and formal essay projects a few times. This should be comfortable by now. This freewrite would not only be a no-brainer, it would also show me academic growth. Hell yeah, let’s do this!

I got back a three-sentence freewrite. 

Then I broke into verse…

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept this paltry piece of writing 
the courage to bite my tongue
and the wisdom to not dump my frustration onto my kid. 


Serenity and courage aside, what do I do about this measly three-sentence writing? Seriously.

Because that’s part of the wisdom: How do I handle what’s in front of me? 

I have to find the spark in the writing. 

I have to set aside my expectation that I would see a longer freewrite, more material to work with, tangible proof of growth I could hold up to the imaginary homeschool critics in my head. I have to let my expectations go so that I can see more objectively – beyond my own ego – what is actually in front of me. 

How is this kid showing up on paper? Not how are my teaching skills showing up in this writing, but how is my kid showing up on the paper. See the difference? 

Once I was able to manage my panicky, insecure feelings (you guys, sometimes this takes me until the next day), I was able to see the sparks in that little freewrite. A potential thesis statement. Supporting points he could research. Details to possibly support the argument in the thesis. 

a beginning freewrite on electronic vs paper ballots

Can I then imagine how that might shape into a larger piece of writing? Where he might go with just one tiny part of this freewrite? Can I envision how to expand on what we have?

It’s on me to help facilitate the rhetorical imagination. I can’t do that for my teen if I can’t do that myself, if I can’t see beyond my own feelings and experience and imagine my kid’s. This is part of the inner work our kids challenge us to do. 

Set the writing aside.

Sit with and process your feelings of frustration and uncertainty. 

Come back and find the spark.

You can do this.