My dad once told me about his favourite high school teacher. I do not know the man’s name, but I do rather wish I’d had him when I was in high school. This gentleman was an English teacher, and one of the things he did at the beginning of the year was give every one of his students a notebook and tell them that they had to write at least one page in it every day. Fiction, poetry, a journal – it didn’t matter what they wrote just as long as they wrote.
My dad told me that sometimes it was physically painful, having to produce that much work so constantly when he wasn’t used to it – but it was the best training he’d ever had as a writer. It forced him to write even when he wasn’t feeling inspired, or when he wasn’t sure where a story plot was going, or when he wasn’t focused or driven or any other excuse a writer has ever given for not writing. Today he’s a journalist, the editor of a newspaper, and he writes novels in his spare time. Unlike me, I have never once known my father to suffer from writer’s block.
I think that’s a wonderful idea – it’s like long-distance running for writers. But I also think that sometimes it’s important to give students a bit of a leg to stand on instead of just flinging work at them and hoping for the best. So something I do when I can’t write is look at writing prompts. There are probably hundreds of sites full of writing prompts, but this one is one of my favourites. The creator, Meredith Willis, used to teach (and may still teach) writing classes and workshops, and she is the author of several books, as well. There are over two hundred writing exercises on the site, which she still updates, so there are more than enough of them to present a lot of variety to your students if you choose to use them.
That’s all for now. So long, and happy writing!