Tapping one’s creativity
becoming more fully human
…this is what engages so many in writing.
Wondering, reflecting… imagining,
creating new ways of perceiving
new ways of understanding,
new choices and new opportunities
I want to tell you about a very noisy, very lively workshop. We meet in a windowless, ten by ten room, freshly painted – lime green. This is the Holyoke Boys & Girls Club’s audio-visual room, with cameras, computers, and lots of wires.
I drop my two bags and set up a circle of folding metal chairs. Nine- and ten-year olds arrive and immediately try to guess what kind of fruit I have brought.
We start: they all want the first piece of fruit, the most colorful pen, the single red booklet in a pile of 8 blues and greens. They all want to read first; or they all want to read last. All six girls enter as an ocean, asking, “Do I matter?”
I say they are an ocean. …From the start, they are all individuals. Some already love writing; others find their way to it. One girl speaks her words quietly as she writes; which drives another one, who needs complete silence, crazy. Together, we work to find ways we can be both different and fair.
We begin with four guidelines. They add a few more. Each week they ask about, tell about, correct each other on, and generally garble these guidelines. And it takes a very long time to really get the “everything is fiction” part.
There are times when I thank all the gods that Pat Schneider isn’t here to witness something that in no way resembles an AWA workshop. There are times when I feel like a very tired babysitter. And there are times, every time, when I fall in love with each and every person in that room.
Every session closes with a clamor to “Wait…!” and “Watch!” At which point they line up, look to one another for their cue, and dance in unison – moves I would have to break something in order to do – all as one rolling, smiling, intent wave. And then they fall into silliness, and the session is over.
They still do the dance thing, sometimes. And they still want to know what fruit I’ve brought. And in between the fruit-guessing and the line dance, they write.
It takes a while to make a village.
Listening deeply to someone,
holding their stories with respect
helping them to hear and to know their own voice,
can be – is – life-changing.
I am grateful to Write Angles for their support and encouragement; to the Holyoke Boys & Girls Club for partnering in this project; and to Pat Schneider who created and understood the power of this process, and has shared it with literally thousands of people over the past 30 years.