One day in class, my students were talking about how we come up with inspiration to write. This is the number one hurdle for my students -- many of which have been traditional low-achievers, and their favorite weapon is avoidance.
Their fear of failure typically prevents the joy and challenge of beginning.
Most of them hate writing from a prompt (I know, right, Shawn?), so we talked about how to pull a word from the prompt and let that take you elsewhere. I suggested journaling or writing down your day, mining for the moments that made them feel. I offered pictures and art and music as jumping-off places.
Finally, one student asked me where and when I do my best writing and thinking. And my answer was simple: in the car. When I go home each day, I often find myself sitting in traffic. And while I sit, I talk. "I turn on the recorder on my phone and just talk," I said.
"Like to yourself?"
"Yes, to myself. And then often I listen back at another time and sort through whatever it was I was thinking about."
"What do you talk about? "
"Everything. What I'm feeling. What the people in the next car are doing. Where they might be going. How my day at work went. You know... just stuff."
Suddenly, one of my most challenging, but generally good-hearted, boys piped up. "You ever talk about US?"
"All the time," I replied coolly. And then I smiled.
I've never seen his eyes get so big, but I had to laugh as he mumbled, to his neighbor, "Yo, you KNOW I gotta get that phone."