Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Creative Calisthenics

This week, I am teaching a writing class with a colleague from school. Six middle school kids who signed up to spend six hours of their summer vacation writing and learning about writing.

I am having so much fun!

As a writer and educator, I am beyond dismayed that we are creating a generation of kids who can craft a formulaic response to a writing prompt, but who hate to write. I often wonder how much of this has to do with the fact that we've sucked all the joy out of writing - fabulous adjectives, lively dialogue and exploded moments are a thing of the past. In their place are dry, prosaic paragraphs responding to queries that interest neither the writer nor the reader. No wonder kids hate writing - and teachers no longer enjoy teaching it.

But this week gives me hope. We have a talented group of kids who politely humor us by listening to what we have to say during the presentation portion, but who want nothing more than to be left alone to write, write and write some more.

And they are talented. One first page nearly brought me to tears today with an incredible juxtaposition of heartbreaking circumstances and a matter-of-fact voice that hardly seemed possible from a student so young. That instinctual combination can't be taught, and I can only imagine the possibilities if this young man continues to write.

So, if you are reading this, I hope you will do me a favor. If you know a young writer, please encourage him or her. Tell him there's more to writing than college essays and book reports, let her know there's a world of poetry beyond greeting cards. Make sure these kids are aware that there's a creative muscle memory - that just as in sports and music, it takes hours of practice to accomplish the thing that, in the end, looks effortless and that simply by putting words together in a journal, on a page, or on a computer screen, they are toning their creative muscles, even if the end product is not perfect.

Because the only thing that would be better than having these kids back next summer would be if they brought six - or eight, or twelve or twenty - more kids with them. The combination of desire and talent is powerful, and when sprinkled with a fearlessness that allows us to splash words on the page like so many colors, it is the thing that proves we are human, unique and creative, not just data on a page.

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