The changing colors of autumn mean a return to school for many, teacher and student alike. For writers, especially those with academic experience, lesson plans may bring to mind writing plans, and we look at ways we can learn to do this work we love in new and better ways. The plethora of notebooks and writing implements and shiny new electronic devices can tempt writers to strive for new heights, put our heads together and get down to business. If tasty hot beverages are involved, all the better.
No matter if our school days are still going on, are part of our pre-writing lives, or on which side of the desk we sat or sit, writing means always learning something new. This month, we turn to Frankie Y. Bailey, PhD, for a quick but important lesson on how some writerly recess may be more productive than we think:
The most important thing I’ve learned is to allow myself to have fun. Because I do academic (nonfiction) writing, I needed to learn to give myself permission to “play”. My favorite bit of wisdom –something I was reminded of last weekend when I led a writing workshop for teens in my hometown in Virginia: “Before settling down to do the hard work, let your imagination have free rein. Go with whatever comes to mind and refine later.”
In the workshop I taught, the last writing exercise we did was the one that the students and I loved best. I asked the small group to collaborate and come up with two characters and a setting. In less than five minutes, they came up with two sisters, 15 and 17, who were visiting a Civil War graveyard. During the next half hour, with me at the blackboard taking notes, they roughed out the plot outline – a mystery with paranormal elements. They also decided they wanted to write a series rather than a standalone book and came up with a series arc. I was amazed by their lively imaginations. I’m hoping to hear they actually wrote that book for young adults.
Frankie, that sounds exciting. Who’s up for a little homework?
Anna C. Bowling