Collecting words and phrases that help writers imagine stories and pictures from their lives can be another way to help writers discover ideas and start writing. When I give this lesson, I actually just begin with a few phrases, and then let the chart fill with ideas from the group. At the same time, I’ve suggested to students that they find a place toward the end of their notebooks for lists and seed ideas. We add to it every now and then just as a way for me to show students the breadth of what can go into their notebooks. Here are some starters used in the past: first-lasts, inside out, upside down, left out, after dinner, found, lost, it’s the name of the game, night-day, expectations, out the window. . . Please add your own.
After our brainstorming session, it’s time to write, and as I’ve said before, the ideas are still personal choice. I just ask that they record these ideas as described above in case they need a new idea sometime.
Here is my choice for today: a poem from the words, Inside-Outside
Inside, at 60 beats a minute,
my heart is resting,
of life on the outside.
These layers, like tree rings,
remain hidden inside,
and show only a peek to the outside
of the sometimes sweet
and occasionally bitter
when we add a pinch of salt
and then a lot of sugar.
Inside, my heart is racing
but you might not know
until I tell you, on the outside.
I’d like to add that I’m not really satisfied with this poem. I feel it needs something that I can’t yet figure out. I’ve worked on it for quite a while, and messed with different lines, frustrated that it just won’t go right! As I worked in the classroom with students, I would have shown them my process, all the cross-outs and changes, demonstrating that sometimes things don’t always go so well, and that’s what happens with writers. As the French poet Paul Valery said, “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.”