How I Came to Writing Practice: The rules to WRITE

Five days to launching the class schedule for my inaugural month of teaching!

Between July 27 to 31, I will be posting the story of how I came to writing practice. This will hopefully give some context of what to expect and why I believe so strongly that we are all storytellers and why I believe in this process. Please leave comments and questions if there’s more you’d like to know.

Ms. FrizzleI was first introduced to the concept of “Here’s a prompt. Write for X minutes. Now go!” when I was a senior in high school. One of my friends had an English teacher whom we all called Ms. Frizzle, after the Magic School Bus teacher. She held a before school “club” once or twice a week called WRITE: We reach imagination through expression. The WRITE rules were:

Be specific
Don’t think
Don’t worry about punctuation, grammar, or spelling
Keep your hand moving for 10 minutes
Lose control

We met in her metal temporary, beige on the outside and filled with student work on the inside walls, which would have otherwise also been beige. We sat in plastic chairs with the attached desk, metal baskets under the seats to hold our books. We would move the chairs into a circle, facing inward. She would provide a prompt and tell us to GO! Write! 10 minutes. Don’t stop.

I remember one writing prompt, close to Christmas time, when she brought in a wooden rocking horse. Write about your childhood. Go! 10 minutes! Don’t stop! I remember I couldn’t think of anything to write. My pen was going, going, going. Emotions were being churned up, because I couldn’t remember anything. Another prompt was around Valentine’s Day, when she brought in Dove Promises. She told us to eat the chocolate and then use the inside “promise” as our prompt for the day. Mine from that day was: A promise of a Valentine filled with Love. Ten minutes, GO! Don’t stop.  I’ve dug out my journal from that time and see there are many others, from later opened Promises, as I found them wonderful prompts.

When we found out at the end of the year – or early the next school year – the WRITErs who had graduated found out that Ms. Frizzle had gotten married and moved to Canada. I have (very) recently touched base with her again after many years to thank her for formally introducing me to this practice.

As I left high school and moved into college, I didn’t think much else about WRITE and its prompts, except as a way to jump start my writing. I found lines I liked from the music I listened to, or videos to the same songs, and would write along with them. I would use the rules, Don’t stop and Don’t think, often when I was writing.

Except, I kept adhering to the rules, without thinking about them. They allowed me freedom to not think about what was on the page. Rather, I could open up to whatever was there. These rules, without me realizing it, had become the foundation to my own writing. Until seven years later, in 2006…

(Check back tomorrow for the next stage in my writing practice journey.)

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