Monday, August 24, 2015

It's a Writer's World

Something magical happens when we go out into the world as writers.  You see the hair on your slice of pizza as an op-ed piece waiting to happen.  You see the can of red paint in the middle of the highway--the one that splatters the driver's side of your truck like a crime scene--as the opening line to a terrible, horrible, no-good very bad day kind of story.  You see the way the light hits the trees--casting more shades of green than you can name--and the haze from the fires in the west as helping to paint the setting of your post-apocalyptic fantasy.   You capture conversations and embellish experiences as a way of practicing your craft. And sometimes, just as it seems the ideas have run out, you take a walk in the woods and give birth to an entire series of stories.  This is exactly what happened to our friend, Mary, author of the Magic Tree House Series:

In this way, Mary becomes a mentor to us as writers.  She entices us to go out into our world, open to possibilities. While many writers tell us that one of the major hurdles to writing is putting your seat in a seat and actually putting pen to paper or fingers to keys.  But what Mary helps us to see is that sometimes what we need is to get up from our chairs and go out into our world. Sometimes what we need is to let the world make its own suggestions.  This requires a writer's eye, so a lesson to this effect might go something like this: 

Target:  We will learn to see our world as writers.
Success Criteria:
  • Gather 3-5 seed ideas from our trip to the courtyard (playground, through the halls, around the school, etc)
  • Capture at least two more ideas outside of writing time (during another part of the school day or at home).
  • Describe what it means to see the world as a writer. 
I've used this lesson--or a variation of it--every year for the past ten years.  I've enjoyed it with students at a variety of grades as well as with adults in our summer sessions. One year, I even went so far as to make writers' notebooks entries mandatory, but just like a required reading log, the compliance of the capturing took the joy out of the jotting.  So now, I enter this lesson with as much enthusiasm as I remember from memories of students' faces as they find a praying mantis in a tree or drop a pencil down the drainage grate.  To set the stage for our yea together, we get out into our world and we let the ideas come.  And come they do, without fail.  (Click here to read more about my latest writers' world lesson experience.)
Seeing the world as writers gives us all that we could ask for and more. It helps us to see that even though we may not be published authors, we can all find reason to write.  So don't just sit there, get up and try it!