Friday, November 15, 2013
Today I spoke as a writer
The single best thing about today was talking to a small group of middle school students about writing. The students are in a writers workshop in the school where I work, and randomly, and I mean randomly, the teacher mentioned they were doing NaNoWriMo for kids this month. I randomly mentioned, oh how nice, I was doing it for adults. Then we chatted about writing and she invited me to talk to the kids just as someone who was doing the process. Then we chatted about my writing past, as in, you know, my writing career, because as it turns out, and I think I've mentioned this before, I'm a bona-fide writer, because I've always made my living writing.
The thing is, I got to talk about my favorite subject in the world -- writing. It was the best thing because each of the students had a specific hurdle they had encountered in their writing, and because I happen to be a, you know, bona-fide writer, I was able to give them something to do that would help them.
We talked about techniques to get out of writers block - potato chips and soda... just kidding. We talked about the danger of outlines in the rough draft of a story - what if your story wants to move? Your outline can be a prison.. danger, beware! We talked about the importance of knowing the ending, and in one student's case, knowing the character.
I told them the only thing necessary in a rough draft was the beginning, the end, and a strong character. Some might disagree, but remember, I"m talking stories, fiction, and in telling a story the most important thing to do is to get it all on the paper. Like most good students, they were trying to follow a structure, rules, an outline, and of course, were fixing grammar... in a rough draft... the horror.
I told them about the 'inner editor,' that harsh critic that says what we write is silly and we should give up - I know it's not just me, every writer writes about this!
We talked about the experience of reading something and liking it, that small nugget that's on your page and you think, did I write that? and that is what happens when you write - you write beautifully - you just have to get out of your own way. I said grammar does not a good writer make. I said write horribly, embarrassingly, awfully, fearlessly, but to get it all down. I told them how to just write through their problems... the monster came crashing through and then.. I don't know how - figure out how - but it ended up smooshing a dwarf.. and that's how we all met Ed... Ed was a diminutive creature... etc etc.
I asked them about their stories, and what challenge they were stuck at. They all had good stories in different genres. The ideas were great! The characters believable.
And then something happened. The interview ended (I did talk a lot, hopefully not too much) on a pause, and then, they just... got up... went to their chrome books and .... started writing.... The teacher and I just looked at each other, I didn't know what to think. She said I was inspiring.
I just hope that whatever I said that reached them, they can hold on to, because writing, when done right, is hard!