It seems like a paradox that solid structure and firm boundaries offer freedom.
I used to think that, if I had unlimited time and resources, I would consistently be able to produce writing that flowed and charmed. But what I found was that, in those few wide-open episodes of no pressure and time-luxury, I had no idea what to write about. The morning would stretch out endlessly, and soon I would wander away from my desk, seeking the first distraction.
But other times, when I only had fifteen minutes and someone told me I HAD to produce a paragraph,–well, that paragraph emerged.
Something had stripped the restrictions away and shut up my inner critic.
When time is no issue, the Inner Critic surfaces, lazily, smugly, big bully that s/he is. And everything I go to write gets a scathing critique.
“Really?” says the IC. “And who could possibly be interested in reading THAT?”
After listening to a few nasty remarks of that nature, I am up and brewing a new pot of coffee, looking through my recipes, deciding to rearrange the books on my To-Read shelf.
Unless—unless I put my own structure in place, outwitting the bully within.
Community college students in English Composition classes were generally convinced of a couple of things. They would tell me bluntly and boldly that they hated poetry. And they would assert with no underlying, hopeful, denial that they absolutely and unequivocally could not write.
It was my job to clearly and firmly change their minds on both counts.
I was always looking for exercises and activities to engage them. Somewhere along the line, I ran across the Three Minute Poem (so long ago, I can’t even remember how to justly attribute the source.) Here is how it worked:
I would say to the students, Quick! Give me five words. Then I’d write the first five words they blurted on the board. The words could be anything–like, say….
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