I learnt to read and write in school through decoding. I began with learning alphabets and then joining these alphabets to read simple words without any meaning or context. Then after two years of this kind of training, I began to read simple sentences with little meaning. In the process, I learnt two things. Firstly, reading and writing is a complex formulaic process that I know nothing about. Secondly, meaning is unimportant in the initial stages of reading.
Together these two learnings affected my confidence, as for me the process of reading and writing was now mystified and my own knowledge of language was not acknowledged. I was also not able to make much sense of the reading writing exercises that were given in school. Soon, I stopped intellectually engaging with language. But I managed somehow to sustain my interest in reading. Writing however remained a frightening experience for me and it still is.
In college, while training to be an elementary school teacher I came across constructivist approaches to reading and writing such as whole language approach; language experience approach, emergent literacy and process writing approach. I learnt about these and used them as effectively as possible in my grade one class. But I remained a reluctant writer. I was scared of writing my experiences of using these approaches.
Recognising my fear for writing, I remembered what Rousseau had said that if the teacher herself does not love her subject she will give pass on message to her students. Afraid of this, I promised myself to make reading and writing a more meaningful exercise for my students. Then while working with Dalit girls of rural Uttar Pradesh, I learnt that writing has a lot to do with confidence. I promised myself that I would make reading and writing fun for these girls, so that unlike me, they begin to enjoy writing. I wanted them to write for themselves. This happened but I still could not overcome my phobia for writing. Reading Frank Smith’s ‘Essays into Literacy’ also did not help me much.
I moved on but in every stage of my life writing became an inescapable reality. Now a doctoral student, I cannot but have to face my fears. In the meanwhile I began teaching MA programme students, and through them I realised how systematically all of us learnt to curb our voices in school which developed into our fear for writing.
So, in order to deal with this fear, I decided to take up a writing challenge for fourteen weeks. I must thank Brandon Sanderson for inspiring me to do this. I watched a clip of his 2013 lecture titled ‘Build Good Habits’ in which he asks his students to take up the challenge of writing 3000 words a week for fourteen weeks. My challenge begins from 1st November 2014 till 8th February 2015. In this period, I vow to write 500 words everyday. I vow to begin my day with writing.
I am hoping that by the end of this challenge I will be able to get rid of my phobia for writing.
Wish me luck.