July 5, 2012

WRITE and WRITE and WRITE Some More!

I've been sharing the key learning points discussed in my young writers' workshop entitled, "Gotcha! How to Find and Capture Great Writing Ideas."

This week we'll cover the last point, Big Idea #5:  WRITE and WRITE and WRITE some more.  Your Pencil is Magic.  Use it to Let Your Ideas Out! 

This is when we discuss that writing ideas come from writing.  We discuss that something magical happens when we sit down and move our pencils (or tap on our keyboards). I mention that sometimes it's easier to write in pictures (i.e. doodle) than to write in words, and how that's okay, too.

During this portion of the workshop, I talk about how writing, even when you're not in the mood to write, can lead to something unplanned and amazing. The point is to sit down and move our pencil or click our keyboard.

Next, I share with students some of the things that have come out of my own magic pencil when I've forced myself to sit down and write.  Here is one example:

May 15, 2012: I don’t have anything amazing to say today.  I wish I was out playing in the sunshine.  If I were out playing in the sunshine I would be eating an ice cream cone.  My favorite kind of ice cream is mocha.  When I was little, my favorite kind of ice cream was bubble gum.  My favorite bubble gum ice cream had little chunks of bubble gum throughout it. Some kid choked on a piece of ice cream and the company got sued, so then they stopped making it for awhile.  The summer they stopped making bubble gum ice cream was the summer I got grounded from chewing bubble gum for the entire month of July.  It was the same summer they had a limited time offering of chocolate flavored bubble gum at the R and R Market just a short walk from my house….

You see…magic….grammatical errors and all! I haven't thought about the R and R market for years.  I had forgotten how much I loved bubble gum ice cream and I hadn't pondered how I felt about being grounded (or why I was grounded, which I still haven't revealed!) for quite some time.

At this point in the workshop, students are ready to unleash their pencils, (if they didn't already get a chance to do that during the discussion of Big Idea #3).  I briefly review the signs for  excitedsadscarednervoussorry and hurtand I remind students to look at their arms and imagine something holding something special in them.  I ask the students to think of the strongest story idea that comes from these feelings, and I ask if there is anyone who still hasn't come up with a writing idea that they would like to explore.

Usually there are at least one or two students who raise their hands to indicate that they still don't have a strong story idea percolating.  I ask these students to look at their own body (i.e. their legs, arms, hands) and find a bruise or scab or other wound.  I remind them the sign for hurt and ask them to show that sign once they remember how they got that wound.  If they can't remember, I tell them their job during this exercise is to make up a story about how they got that wound!  Most everyone else will work off of real memories, but some students ask if they can switch to a made up story, instead. You bet!

On the count of three I ask students to make the sign for the memory/feeling they are going to write about.  Everyone signs like crazy.  Next, we pick up our magic pencils and write.  For three full minutes.  The only rule:  You must keep your pencil moving the full time--no exceptions.  You can write whatever words come out (even if the words are something like, "Ugh! I don't want to be writing right now.  I don't know what to write about...my hand hurts from writing...."), and even if the words are in the form of pictures.

After the three minutes are up we stop. And that's when the real magic happens.  Students are always amazed at the magic that just came out of their pencils. They are always eager to share the stories they started and want to get back to work on. (Three minutes is enough time to get the ideas flowing, but typically it's not enough time to complete anything, and most students are frustrated that they had stop in the middle of something. Yay! Even students that chose to write in pictures instead of words come to realize they have story ideas hiding in their head and they are excited to share those ideas!).

So there you have it: the five key learning points discussed in my young writers' workshop entitled, "Gotcha! How to Find and Capture Great Writing Ideas."

I love teaching this workshop because it is so rewarding to see young writers genuinely excited about writing.  The letters and pictures I receive from students who have taken this workshop make me smile:

Next up: I'll share ideas covered in my workshop entitled, "Your Pencil is Magic."  This hands-on workshop demonstrates how writing props and prompts can help you unlock the creative ideas hiding inside of you.  I've taught this workshop for young writers and adults, most recently at the 2012 SCBWI-Oregon Spring Conference.  If you'd like to schedule a writing workshop or author visit for your school or community group, please get in touch!