This afternoon as we were discussing inspiration for our afternoon writing, the energy was high and the ideas they were a flowing. We’d delve into discussion on a particular topic and the kids were eager to share their spins and perspectives on how to curve the story their own way. I love this about topics and themes and storytelling. Everyone has their own spin, true to their own unique tweaks and turns and life course. After an energetic discussion, the kids found their comfortable writing spaces and dove in.
I let the dust settle a bit and allowed them to each pick up some momentum. After about five to ten minutes I could tell there were a good handful of my students that appeared to lack focus. They looked stuck. Some staring around the room, out the window, blankly at the page. Others more lethargic, eyelids drooping with heads nestled heavily in the hand. A few repeat offenders of a quite obviously exaggerated and excessive need for tissue and/ or garbage disposal.
So on a whim, knowing how paralyzing writer’s block and being stuck can be, I called out, “Anyone having a hard time choosing a topic or finding inspiration?” Instantly four arms shot up. I silently waved them over with a swoop of an arm. We sat on the carpet, and had a little meeting of the muses. Each threw a couple of ideas out on the table. All unsure, some unenthusiastic.
“I kind of want to write about this Youtube channel that I think is funny.”
“Could I write a poem about a girl who’s hurting herself and sad, even if it isn’t about me?”
We would then brainstorm, try to zone in, narrow the focus, trim the fat, add the figurative, illuminate the senses, and … give rise to a story.
Thinking back on the conference, I almost feel as if at times I was desperately trying to drag out and breathe life into their topics and ideas. In reflection, I just hope that they saw the potential in their ideas, and found their own motivation and excitement. I hoped to validate their ideas. I even went on a short spree of shooting out other random writing topics, hoping to convey the idea that anything is ok, as long as you have a purpose and it communicates something to the reader.
At one point I was rattling off ideas, hoping to encourage them to think outside the box.
“Take something you felt today. Maybe you felt stuck, stifled, or trapped and take it for a spin. What if I were a fish? You could write about being a big fish in a small pond, aimlessly swimming, with high hopes of the open sea. The glitter of your coat reflects off the water’s surface, a perpetual reminder of your fateful confinement…”
I distinctly remember snapping out of it suddenly and looking into my student, Edgar’s eyes. He had this funny hazy grin, in which I instantly realized, He thinks I’m insane. I kind of began chuckling myself. I know it sounded crazy, but I just wanted to illustrate that a story of gargantuan proportions can spawn from the smallest seedling. They each went off back to their seats and spaces, with some small seed of an idea, hoping to sprout up a slice.
For whatever reason, that phrase that I spurted off, What if I was a fish? keeps swimming round my head. I can’t help but laugh. It’s cracking me up. Pretty ridiculous, but for some reason, I had real passion behind that bizarre suggestion. I went off. But maybe that’s just what you gotta do when searching for inspiration. Throw out a line, and wait for some bursting inspiration to come into imaginative creation and take a bite.
What if I was a fish?