tools

Make Writing by Diversifying Your Tools

tools“When a large and diverse set of tools is provided, a large and diverse group of makers comes out to live, work, and play.” Mark Hatch, The Maker Movement Manifesto: Rules for Innovation in the New World of Crafters, Hackers, and Tinkerers

You will never have enough tools. Even if you have enough cash to purchase them in abundance and enough space to store them efficiently, you will never have enough of them. Thankfully, the tools that writers rely on most are usually easy to acquire and highly adaptable. We are constantly repurposing our tools at the WNY Young Writer’s Studio, and much of our space is furnished with hacked thrift store finds and curbside treasures. It’s not that we couldn’t buy new. What we made simply meets our needs better.

When I first opened the WNY Young Writer’s Studio, I acquired a collection of general, multipurpose tools and resources first. Then, I waited for the writers I would teach to show me what we needed. This saved me a ton of time, space, and money. If I had outfitted my space based on my assumptions and dreams, so much would have gone to waste.

It’s better to get kids making and writing first.

Pay attention.

Get what’s needed when it’s needed.

It was this approach that helped me discover the relationship between making and writing. I also realized that while the connection is clear, it often plays out in complex and unpredictable ways. I need to be patient. I need to watch and listen and give permission.

I’ve noticed that for some, making things inspires their writing.

This has been especially true for those who claim to hate writing. I’ve found that when resistant writers are expected to make and share what matters to them, writing becomes an authentic and far more palatable part of that process. Makers often write in order to generate and refine ideas, clarify their thinking, annotate steps in a process, articulate plans, diagnose problems, reflect on their work, and share what they know. Believe it or not, they are often enthusiastic about this kind of writing.

It’s impossible to anticipate the tools that these writers may need until they begin their projects. Invite them to bring necessary supplies into your space. Add just the right tools at just the right time. Then, encourage others to repurpose them for their own projects. Keep supplies visible and make the tools that you acquire accessible to others, so that they may be inspired to use them.

Above all, encourage experimentation.

For others, the writing itself is the thing that they are making.

Interestingly enough, most of the writers I know tend to employ very similar moves when they’re invited to use a maker’s tools: they tear texts apart, they tinker with them, they build using blocks and boards and grids, they test their prototypes, and they revise. Given similar tools and conditions, I’ve noticed that makers are writers and writers are makers. What differs is their initial product and often, their natural inclination to work with words or with other materials.

When we provide opportunities to choose, we make writing more accessible and relevant to all.

When it came time to outfit the WNY Young Writer’s Studio with general use supplies, I considered those that would support the makers who write as well as the writers who make. All rely on our whiteboards, lap-sized foam boards, tacks, sticky notes, and flip charts. We love composition books, stickers, stamps, Sharpies, and chalk. We rely heavily on Google Tools and Open Office for our word processing and collaborative writing needs. Some of our writers are artists. They doodle and sketch and draw and paint. I began with a small collection of tools that could support them and expanded our resources over time.

Again, these were the writers who came to me.

Yours will be different.

It is necessary to learn which of these tools (and others) might benefit your writers most and when they will need them. Pay attention to what they’re doing and make suggestions. Ask them what they want to use. Invite them to bring their own materials. Supplement as you can. Build your tool bench as you go.

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