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?