The four days that made me a writer

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When I was in grade school, I went to writing camp with my two best friends. This consisted of the three of us staying at the house of a creative writing teacher for four days.

The first thing I remember doing was sitting down at her little card table, one of us on each side, pencils poised over notebooks as we gazed off into space. Miss Judy was spouting random phrases, spaced out to give us time to think in between, and occasionally one of us would bend over the table, scribbling something on the notebook paper. I can’t remember any of the specific phrases she gave us, but they were something like: a strange visitor…the first day of school…the last time we met…my best friend…and so on. Writing prompts. Sources of inspiration.

Since then, I’ve looked at writing prompts on a few writing websites and been disappointed. Most set up a situation and then ask you how it ends. Others give you a list of words to use, or a picture to write a story about. This seems to me more exercise than inspiration. The simple phrases Miss Judy gave us sparked our imaginations and empowered us to write whole stories.

Second, Miss Judy separated us. We each had our own corner of the house, where we wouldn’t be distracted by one another. She would set the timer for 45 minutes and we would sit there and write whatever story had been inspired by her prompts. My writing spot was a long, straight hallway, with very few doors and no decoration. Stark white. It had a cold, clinical, futuristic feel. I can’t stress enough just how much I enjoyed sitting in this hallway. Something about its emptiness excited me, the same way a blank page excites me. I think this was the first time I felt the intense joy of creating.

When the 45 minutes were up, we gathered together and read aloud what we had written – and here was the kicker: we had to read it exactly as we had written it. No fixing grammar mid-read. This encouraged us to edit more meticulously before we came to the group session; it helped us to look more objectively at our own writing, because we knew we’d soon have to face the criticism of our fellow writers (which was always kind…but still!). Then, of course, we gave each other suggestions and encouragement.

Best. Four days. Ever. It was eat, sleep, write, critique. Miss Judy taught me a lot about writing, and she fueled my passion for something I had, until that point, only been mildly interested in. Although my two best friends now only write casually, occasionally, I have grown into a writing fiend. I’m addicted. If I go more than a week without working on some form of fiction, I start to get depressed. And I couldn’t be happier about that.

What’s your origin story? How did you become a writer?

About Stephanie Orges

Stephanie is an award-winning copywriter, aspiring novelist, and barely passable ukulele player. Here, she offers writing prompts, tips, and moderate-to-deep philosophical discussions. You can also find her on and Pinterest.
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  1. I love this! It gives me ideas for my daughter, who loves to write. I had a teacher in fifth grade who made me a notebook with all kinds of tips, prompts, and exercises, and then she met with me one-on-one after school to read what I had written and look at my ideas in the notebook.

    • That’s great! Miss Judy helped us to create similar notebooks; we had lists of “talk words” (said, replied, shouted, etc.), “taste words” (salty, sugary, etc.), smell words, touch words and more, which we could consult while writing. Now there’s, but I still have those lists in a box somewhere under my bed. : )

  2. In second grade my teacher introduced me to the magic that is Enid Blyton. Never before had I had my imagination and emotions set as free as her reading from those books each day. And from that day I determined I too wanted to be a storyteller; to take people to other worlds with their hearts and souls so that when they returned to themselves, they could be bigger and better for it as human beings.
    Thanks for a great blog topic and the space to share. I really wish that I could go on a four day writing retreat right now.

  3. I never heard of writing camp, but what a great way to get motivated. I didn’t know until high school that I liked to write, but only wrote fiction when given prompts. I didn’t know they were prompts though, just assignments. Now I want magic prompts too!

  4. How about a blog post now and then with some Stephaniesque ideas and basic instructions? I would be terrorized but would consider it homework!

  5. Hah! It just goes to show how different people work differently. I am glad that you had this experience, and that you chose to write about it here!
    I struggled against such structure like a caged thing. Maybe my mother being an English lit teacher was a factor, maybe it was my attention deficit issues. I respected the discipline of writing, the rules that are its framework, and I loved literature. Yet I hated writing.
    I hated it until one autumn day when I was twelve. I remember sitting in my room, but I don’t remember what caused the thought to dawn. I remember the thought, though:
    “No one ever has to see it.”
    I took pen to notebook paper then and there, and only once, in eighteen years, have I stopped for any considerable period of time. I had the universe that I write about in my head all along. I cannot even remember when its first day dawned in my imagination. Until that autumn day, though, it only found its way into our world through play.
    It took me several years for the “maybe I can let someone else see it” thought to overtake the old secrecy, another year or three before I would let my family read my work, and only now do I feel as if I might be able to create something worthy if the paper used to print it. …Maybe.

    Interestingly, the only creative-writing assignments I ever enjoyed were from a college class, and I only enjoyed the ones that allowed me to write about environments.

    • “No one ever has to see it” is probably one of the most important things a writer should tell him(her)self. Otherwise nothing would ever get written! I’ve never had ADD issues, but I have the same feeling of wanting to do anything BUT write as soon as I sit down TO write. But once you push past that and really start pumping words out…you don’t want to stop!

      • Heh, yeah. I tell my friends that, but so many come back with “But what is the point of writing if people won’t read it!” I try to explain that it doesn’t mean it WILL never be read, but that it doesn’t HAVE to be read. Some seem to get it, others don’t. My dear brother would (I hope will!) be an amazing writer, but he gives into frustration and discouragement too easily. I want him to learn to write for himself, so that he can come to the place where he writes for others!
        I only usually get that feeling when writing for assignments. It is making the time to sit down and write that I struggle with!

        • Everybody needs encouragement, but I wonder if some, even talented ones, just aren’t meant to be writers–if only because they don’t get as much fulfillment out of it as we do. Though we can never know for sure, so I always err on the side of encouragement.

  6. Time will tell. He is one of those brilliant people who is really hard on himself.

  7. Pingback: How to edit your novel: 5 more practical tips that really work « BeKindRewrite

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