They can do it….so can you!

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hosting a book signing for a group of 4th and 5th graders who had each written novels during last November’s NaNoWriMo as part of their elementary school writing club. There are some great photos from this event, seeing as how their Language Arts teacher (and one of the leaders of the Writing Club) is also a professional photographer, but alas, I can’t just post photos of other people’s kids, so I won’t. Here’s a photo of a cake instead.

We held it in the student center of the college where I work, so there was a fair amount of college-kid foot traffic going past. Most of the college kids stopped to talk to the kids.

“What, ya’ll wrote a book? What, all together?”

“No, we each wrote our own,” one girl said. The others chimed in. They all wrote their own books.

The girls (they were all girls–maybe it was a situation of friends joining the club under the influence of friends?) were outgoing and seemed to be very accomplished marketers of their books as well. This was one of the learning objectives, according to the teacher who designed this program. The girls not only wrote their books and demonstrated perseverance and self-discipline during the month of November, but they also self-published them, and then practiced the soft skills of learning how to talk to people about their books.

“You serious?? How old are you?”

“I’m ten.”

“Eleven.”

“Ten.”

Not only were the kids adorable, but the upshot of that night is this: If a group of fourth and fifth graders can write novels (one of them was even the adult-length 50,000 word goal set for NaNoWriMo), then we all don’t have much excuse for not following our own passions, do we?

On Walking…

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There are two main ways I know to get unstuck if you need ideas and need to clear your head to write. The first is driving.  The second is going for a walk.

I don’t know what it is, why walking works. Perhaps it’s being both surrounded and confronted by the physical world, removed from one’s mind, while simultaneously submersed in our thoughts? When I walk, I feel the sun on my arms, hear the buzz of wasps that fly past or the sound of traffic on the highway, and smell the smoke from a neighbor’s cigarette. I must deal with sidewalks that end or mud that begins and I must navigate around it. I am immersed in the world.

At the same time, however, am usually alone in my thoughts when I walk, which forces me to juxtapose ideas I’ve had on the transience of life with the homeless backpacker and his dog, whom I just trekked past. Walking creates connections between the conscious and unconscious, the physical and spiritual, and those connections are sometimes just what we need to write.

When we walk, we also see things from a different angle than we do when we drive past in a car. We have a different vantage point. We see the cracks on a building. We see mildew growing in the corner of a house. We observe the Rottweiler guarding a back door with a splintered frame and imagine the children who play in the brand-new swing-set that adorns a side yard. We wouldn’t have seen this if we drove past, focused on speed limits and traffic lights.

So, if you catch yourself getting stuck with writing–or in any way–it can’t hurt to go for a walk. To immerse yourself in the world.