INKSHED XXIII May 5, 2006

Miriam -- Inkshedding: History as context

I was a beginning graduate student and was there because my advisor, an established Inkshedder, thought I would enjoy it. In those days I didn't have a perspective or a vision or a paradigm or a theoretical framework about writing or the teaching of writing. I didn't even know those were things to have let alone things to reach for. These people asked questions -- questioned the status quo constantly. -- Pat Sadowy

If Inkshed has survived 20+ years - there must be a great merit/worth -- I am just beginning to discover --

Maybe we need to concentrate on the power that the act of writing has -- to focus thought, to energize, to marshall arguments, to channel currents of thought, to express beliefs with hopes for understanding. Maybe we need to remember the charged energy that fills a room when everyone writes simultaneously and when everyone waits together and wonders, like Stevie Smith, "What will she write? Will it be good?" -- Laura

The idea that "vulnerability builds community" resonates with me. I'm going to work with this idea in my teaching -- reading and language arts courses. It seems to me that if everyone feels equally vulnerable and "at-risk" perhaps a stronger learning community is created.

Ideally, yes. In a classroom, no matter what, the students are always going to feel more vulnerable and "at risk" with the teacher. Within that inherent power inequity though, we can try to encourage students to trust each other.

What is more important is our AGREEMENTS and our senses of caring. For many of us there is a history -- sort of like a family. New "in-laws" came into the family -- divorces happen but the family continues. Part of what makes us strong is our diversity. -- Stan

Is it the act of inkshedding that scares people away? Is there still a perception that the Inkshed family is a closed one?

Even in inkshedding, though, I try to write as well as I can. I am performing, either way, even when I write for myself (which I never do, really for my pseudonymous journal, such as it is, is a blog that friends can also read and comment on). -- Amanda

I was wondering about the Inkshed community and its viability -- if the practice of inkshedding serves the purpose of developing and sustaining this community of Inkshedders, is it perhaps on the wane? If Inkshedders themselves do not use it in their own classrooms, and if the number of Inkshed members is dwindling, is it perhaps time for Inkshedding to give way to other types of community-building practices?

I have grabbed hold of the idea that inkshedding is email before there was email, and I'll let that be my guide.

None the less, trashing sounds like a pervasive weed that still manages to creep into the writing feedback. My hope is that such "weeds" -- the trashing -- don't choke out the healthy plants -- the productive, helpful responses that can be used to build up rather than cut down the presenters.

Most important, students learned to "listen" to each other's writing. Perhaps this is what happens at the conference and makes it so attractive: one knows that she/he will be heard and responded to (a response is guaranteed). I think the nature of the activity prompts the respondents to write what they think rather than to write just to do something that is required of them.

The comparison and contrast of what we do to students in class as learners -- to what we do to each other as collaborative learners, forces an issue of understanding our purpose for the inkshedding act. Let me say this -- the act of inkshedding at least, the very least, is a commitment to our craft and one of the spaces where we enact it. -- Miriam

It occurred to me that that was what she was doing. It was excellent -- she enacted the process -- she edited and made sense of others' responses -- I think if she did this electronically it would be called a "mash up". -- Roger

First, you mentioned that few, if any, of us use inkshedding in our classrooms, with our students: how do you know this? Is this something that has been tried but discarded? How much is related to the pressures that we face in classroom teaching? This is truly a weird and astounding thing: that we engage in this process yearly as a kind of ritual (welcomed or not), and have some kind of passionate commitment to it, but do not promote it to students. I think what they experienced was a pleasure in revealing various vulnerability or uncertainties about their process, and then finding out they were not alone and that others were experiencing similar vulnerabilities. -- Patricia

When we think about it, mostly (that is, when we thought about writing), our assumptions involve display text which is assessed, not dialogue. My aim, anyway, was to challenge and disrupt that set of assumptions. I'm wondering (as I write, in fact) whether and to what extent this is a function of the radical transformation in our assumptions about text that has come with email, internet, disk, blogs, etc. This is not the world in which writing with immediate social intent and impact was unheard of. Inkshedding has been totally transformed by its context. Context is indeed everything. -- Russ