By Nancy Casey
After engaging with your writing practice for about six weeks, you have accumulated quite a few pages. Some pages are written in paragraphs, some appear as lists, and some might have more illustration than writing. Now that you have this much material, it’s a good time to take a look at all of it and evaluate what you have been doing.
First, let’s clear up an important thing about evaluation. Notice the word “value” hidden inside. This means that evaluation is about finding the value in what you do. It’s not about finding mistakes, wondering if you “did it right” or comparing yourself to other people. It shouldn’t make you squirm or be scared that your shortcomings will be exposed. When you evaluate your own work, the important question is, “What is the value to me?”
Begin your evaluation by organizing all your pages neatly and turning them one by one to see what’s there. Keep a pen handy. Notice how you react to each page. You probably pass over some of them pretty quickly, because they don’t interest you very much any more. You linger over others because they please you somehow. Add things if you feel like it.
Draw stars next to the good parts. Sometimes it’s not a whole page that’s especially valuable to you. It could be just a sentence, or a word. If you find it interesting, draw a star. Every star marks something in your writing that is “strong.”
Notice your “gut” or emotional reactions. Do some parts make you smile? Do you look away from other parts because you don’t want to be reminded of what’s there? Are there pages that make you excited, annoyed, sad, proud, or surprised? If a something evokes an emotion for you, draw a little face that shows that emotion.
Here are some things that you can write about as you evaluate your work.
- Write down as many facts and statistics about your writing as you can: total number of pages, number of pages per week, types of writing prompts, number and types of drawings, list of titles, biggest words, list of topics. What other facts and statistics can you add? Which of these is surprising or interesting to you?
- Using “I see….” as a writing prompt, describe your writing to yourself. Tell about the parts that are strong (stars). Tell about the emotions (marked with faces) in the writing. Finish it off with a pep talk to encourage you to keep it up.
- Imagine that sometime in the future, after our civilization is gone, archeologists dig up your writing. Pretend you are one of those archeologists. Write a letter to your boss telling about this amazing discovery and what it shows about 21st century American life.
- Choose something that is strong (marked by a star) and turn it into a writing prompt. Use it to start out a new page of writing.
- Use the writing prompt, “Since I started this writing practice…” and see what comes out.
Evaluation is all about seeing value. It’s valuable. You did it. You own it.
Here is a sample of some writing that evaluates writing.
Nancy Casey is a writer and teacher who has lived in rural Latah County for many years. You can see more of her work here.