Happy Friday, Teachers Write campers!
You’ll want to be sure to visit Gae’s blog for Friday Feedback today, and we also have a special Friday Feature here – with our amazing guest author Donalyn Miller! Donalyn is probably no stranger to most of you at Teachers Write. She’s co-founder of the Nerdy Book Club and the author of two great books about authentic reading – THE BOOK WHISPERER and READING IN THE WILD
Channeling Your Inner Nerd: Writing About Your Passions
by Donalyn Miller
The word “nerd” first appeared in Dr. Seuss’ I Ran the Zoo (1950), when the narrator, Gerald McGrew says he will collect, “a Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker, too” for his zoo. “Nerd” is often used in pejorative terms to describe a person who is socially awkward, obsessed with trivia, or overly intellectual. In certain social groups such as video gamers and science fiction/ fantasy fans, the term nerd is seen as a badge of honor—identifying your group affiliation with others who share common interests.
The cultural popularity of movie and television franchises like Doctor Who and Star Wars, along with the rise of nerdy celebrities like Wil Wheaton (http://wilwheaton.net) and Cory Doctorow (http://craphound.com), have moved nerds into the mainstream—making the term more socially acceptable and even desirable.
As Wil Wheaton famously said in a speech at the Calgary Expo last year, “Being a nerd isn’t about what you love, it’s about how you love it.” (http://wilwheaton.net/2013/04/being-a-nerd-is-not-about-what-you-love-its-about-how-you-love-it/) Moving away from negative stereotypes and expanding our definition of nerd, we are all probably nerds about something.
I am a reading and book nerd. I could spend every day (and often have) reading and talking about books. I collect more books than I can read. I own bookish jewelry and clothes (not a requirement, but fun). I always have a book recommendation or book loan for you. I visit bookstores and libraries on vacation. All of my close friends are book and reading nerds, too. I am blessed that my nerdy passion for reading is also my vocation. In many ways, I am a professional reader, which makes me happy beyond belief.
My obsession with reading feeds my writing, too. A lot of my writing ties back to reading. I write about my work as a reading teacher, my love for books, and my efforts to connect more people with reading. Mining my passion for reading as a source of writing material, I am more comfortable with my nerdy obsession and understand myself better. I recognize and accept the role that reading plays in my life and in my relationships with other people and the world. I read more than ever and enjoy my reading life unapologetically.
No matter what your interests might be—running, restoring furniture, collecting Pez dispensers, gardening, watching old movies—I encourage you to embrace your inner nerd and write about it.
Reflect on your own nerdiness and see what bubbles to the surface. Consider the following questions.
- If you could spend all of your leisure time invested in one activity, what would you choose? Allow yourself to be selfish and honest here.
- How did you first discover your hobby or interest? What excites you about it? Who do you share this interest with?
- If you had to describe your interest to people who knew nothing about it, what would you tell them?
- How did your interest or hobby look to people the past? How has it changed over time?
- Removing all limits, how might your hobby or interest look in the future? How might technology or cultural evolution change it?
- What would you like to learn about your passionate interest or pastime?
- View your passion through the eyes of someone who hates it or doesn’t appreciate/understand it. What’s their objection or obstacle?
- How does your passionate interest connect to the interests of others?
- How might your interest look different to someone younger or older than you?
- What topics have fascinated you, but you never pursued them?
Looking at your reflection, what surprises you? What’s worth exploring further? Could you write an essay about your hobby describing your experiences? Could you write an article explaining its history? How about an ode gushing about how awesome it is? How might your nerdy obsession look in a fictional setting? What passions might your characters have?
Writing about your nerdy interests can lead to greater self-awareness and acceptance. Your enthusiasm may spark interest or forge affiliations with others. Given free rein to research and write about what jazzes you can increase your personal enjoyment and understanding of it, too. Writing about your passions can be an interesting source of inspiration and ideas.