How to Be a Writer Part 9

Here’s an article I wrote some years ago arising from my experiences as a teacher — but if you substitute the word ‘writing’ wherever it says ‘homework’ and 'writer' for 'child', you can get a pretty good set of advices for writers too. See what you think…

A survey done a few years ago with a class of 13 year olds revealed some interesting things. One was that almost no one in the class had a particular space set up for doing homework in the evenings or on weekends.

One boy, who lived on a narrow barge with his parents, used a foldable table which he had to clear and lift up whenever anyone else in the boat wanted to move from one end to the other! The most usual situation was that children were expected to be doing homework anywhere in the house - the kitchen table, a corner of the living room, a shared bedroom - and in all cases the spaces were open to traffic and interruptions. This was non-optimum to say the least: the battle to get homework done was being made much less easy to win. So some obvious tips were:

1. Space

A child normally needs a dedicated, quiet space in which to work if he or she has any hope of completing homework assignments of good quality.

2. Time

Similarly to needing a stable space in which to work, when asked 'At what time do you usually do homework?' answers varied hugely from 'during school if I can' to 'after dinner' to 'in the morning before breakfast' to 'on the bus', the most alarming pattern being that there was no pattern - children just did it as and when they could. Establishing a clear time for homework, as part of a comfortable routine, is the way for children to become more successful at learning outside school hours. Imagine if you had to do your job, but had no plan as to when or where you would do it - and the time changed everyday! Result? Not much work done.

3. Sleep