Makers and Writers: Give More Than Your Work Away

13“One of the most satisfying aspects of making is giving away what you have made. Wonderfully, most people still value gifts made by the giver more than gifts that were bought off the shelf.” Mark Hatch, The Maker Movement Manifesto: Rules for Innovation in the New World of Crafters, Hackers, and Tinkerers

Mary Catalfamo attends Studio sessions with other teenagers her age. She’s a great writer, and she’s published many things that we can hold in our hands and use as mentor texts. Prospective writers can learn a great deal from Mary’s work, but her work isn’t what makes her a valuable member of our community. It’s her willingness to give away more than her final products. Mary gives her ideas freely. She gives away her tools and her processes.

Her published pieces might make her and her family proud, but it’s what she makes and gives along the path to publication that matters most to our community. For instance, it was Mary who helped to transform our sticky notes and whiteboard into power tools for all writers. She credits me for the idea, but I must credit her for running with it so beautifully.

It all started simply enough: we’d been writing together for several days when she’d finally grown tired of sitting and frustrated by the confines of her notebook and keyboard.

“Mind if I take over the board?” she asked, and of course I didn’t. She had me intrigued.

Within moments, she was storyboarding her plot on sticky notes, snipping some of them into arrows which represented connections and directionality, and scribbling questions and ideas in the white space that provided a back drop to her thinking.

Other writers began creeping out of their seats to watch her.

“What are you making?” someone asked, and those words tickled straight up my spine.

“I’m not sure,” she admitted. “I’ve got all of these characters and settings and plot lines in my head. I need to see them. I need to see how they connect and change over time. I guess I just need things to move a bit, and I can’t do that in my notebook.”

Eyebrows rose in recognition. Heads nodded.

“I need to do that,” Alyssa marveled before scurrying back to her work space where she and another writer, Melanie, pulled long lines of easel paper across two separate tables. These became their meaningful space, and when they were finished storyboarding in our Studio, they rolled up their boards and took them home, where they continued to generate, position, and reposition additional ideas.

Mary set an example for all of us at Studio that summer: she demonstrated how making writing isn’t just about the making or the writing. It’s about giving away whatever you can as you go.

When I pay attention to the writers I work with, I realize that the best of what they give isn’t often the story or the poem or the article they create in the end. It’s their ideas, their strategies, and their willingness to let others build on them and reshape them.

This is what it means to be a maker.

This is how we make writing.

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