I taught a Developmental English class a few semesters ago at a community college. One of the assignments I required was a writing journal where they would have to freewrite daily. This included at home as well as in class freewrites. I would give them daily prompts and they had to write honestly and freely for a specific amount of time. At first they didn't like the idea, since they thought they hated writing, they didn't value it, and they certainly didn't see themselves as writers.
But after a while, they all loved it. I remember one student saying to, "I didn't know writing could be like this. I didn't realize you could write about yourself."
I would often ask them to share their freewrite, if they wanted to. Again, many were reluctant, but after I shared mine, they would open up and start sharing. The prompts that I gave them were personal, thought provoking, and forced them to be reflective. After one session, one student remarked that writing was like a personal therapy session. And it really was. Writing helped them realize things about their lives, their pasts, and their futures. It forced them to think things they would have never thought, or could have imagined thinking. Writing has that magical power.
But unfortunately, some students will never experience that. Grammar and mechanics definitely have their place in the classroom. But something is deeply wrong when students' only association with writing means filling out grammar worksheets.
As writers, we are told to write everyday. I honestly find that hard to do, but it is something I still strive to do. But as a picture book writer, what does that mean? How do I write everyday? Does that mean write something new everyday? Revise something? Brainstorm everyday? Read and take notes or study the craft of writing? I think yes to it all. I think write every day can mean do something writing related everyday.
But I also think just the physical act of writing is sort of like muscle memory. Keeping your hand moving, somehow keeps your mind moving too.
Several years ago, I came across these two quotes. And I'm constantly reminded of them.
“How do I know what I think until I see what I say?"
-E. M. Forster
“I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”
Sometimes, we write to simply discover what it is we want to say. Or to discover what we think about something. Writing your thoughts forces you to....THINK. (Imagine that.)
So, when stuck, I think it would be good to engage in the same types of personal prompts I use for my own students. It may not seem like it is picture book related, but it's going to force me to think about life. And aren't all picture books about some aspect of life? Friendship, love, relationships, fun, food, etc...? So maybe something I write could spark a picture book idea.
Therefore, I wanted to encourage you to do the same. And I found a fantastic resource to use for yourself or for your students. The following image prompts are from a website called www.thoughtquestions.com. They deliver a new picture prompt each day.
2/9/2015 08:16:53 am
Great post, Mandy. I love these types of writing prompts and they really can inspire fantastic insights and stories!
2/9/2015 08:54:18 am
Thanks Kirsti! I love them too. I need to make time to do one each day! I do better when I can assign them to students and I write along with them.
2/9/2015 11:49:09 pm
Absolutely a wonderful post! I love the thought provoking prompts. Thanks for sharing!
2/10/2015 10:30:18 am
You're welcome Kristi!
2/10/2015 06:47:17 am
Mandy, Thank you for sharing your thoughts on writing and the interesting prompts. My favorite prompt is - "What's one thing you learned that blew your mind."
2/10/2015 10:31:19 am
I know!!! I love that one too Manju!
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We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with awesome multi-published former student Shirin Shamsi who will be focusing on Muslim and cultural kidlit.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature STEM, STEAM & SEL obsessed author Kourtney LaFavre sharing delightfully dorky, quirky, and fun info.
And 5th Mondays we'll be taking a break