Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Privilege

In my previous post about creating Misfit Manifestos in class, it occurred to me that over the course of the semester, I give a lot of writing assignments. Not all of them are a lengthy research paper, but they are intentionally designed for the continuous practice of writing. It is important in my class to understand that writing is a practiced skill and they should be writing often. 

Yet, as I was writing about their experience with the Misfit Manifestos, it occurred to me that sometimes, students connect with assignments in a way that opens their ideas, and changes the way they see their own lives. The point being is that through a variety of writing opportunities, it is very hard to tell which assignments are going to connect with the students in the classroom. But what comes with experience: is knowing that something will connect with the students.  



It is clear that the writing assignment was a needed break away from writing about Virginia Woolf and modernism. And it was clear from their writing that they wanted to say something important about who they are. It reminds me of the letter writing assignment I work on with my creative writing students. They write letters to people that they can't send them too because of death, or distance, or something else. Every time I do that creative writing exercise, it is clear that they have something that they need to say immediately. It is almost like writers are just waiting for the right idea, the right acceptance and permission to say those things that have been waiting there for the right moment. That is what it felt like with my students, particularly with a student who said, "This will be the easiest assignment so far, I've been screwed up my entire life." And that was the release he needed to explain it all to me. 



Are we looking for permission to write these stories about ourselves? Are these stories just waiting, just under the waves of our everyday life, waiting for the right prompt or the right group to share it with? This type of writing is where your story can be a superpower. This is where you sit in class and awe at the struggles, the humanity that comes from writers, and you see something so brave - the act of writing down something that has always been kept from the world. And there it is on a desk, so common place, like a pen, a notebook. Among those things, you know what a privilege it is.