As a writing teacher my students often hear me urge them to push past their comfort zones. Look risk in the eye and stare it down. My curriculum is filled with fun and chancy exercises that play with words and ideas; haiku, six-word-stories, Fibs (poems based on the Fibonacci sequence) and prompts galore. Do it! Try it! Chance it! I am their most exuberant cheerleader and I know they can do it. I just know it.
Do I take my own advice? Rarely. But read on . . .
I didn’t just smile and walk on as I passed the spray painted sign at the entrance to the Salvator Rosa metro station in Naples, I had to stop and look. For many minutes. My husband and daughter continued on and I snapped a quick picture before running off to catch up (because, apparently, this sign did nothing for them). I was drawn to the words. It certainly wasn’t referring to writers who looked like me, but I was mesmerized anyway.
Obviously, I had no idea what the artist meant by this phrase. One day, after I returned home, I downloaded my pictures onto my computer and the skinny writers picture caught my eye once again. I stared at the picture wondering why I was so intrigued by it. (Because I want to be a skinny writer, probably!) What would I do with this? Write about it, yes, but what? What would I say about this particular experience? Somewhere in the back of my mind, my inner writing teacher started poking me, “go ahead, Cin . . . make something up. Take your own advice--stretch a little!”
So, I did. Here it is.
Skinny writers are lean of word and phrase.
Skinny writers are fast, speeding along their keyboards at breakneck pace, urging the words out.
Skinny writers use pencils like ski poles, gliding down mountains of paper.
Skinny writers sleep in their dreams and dream in their sleep.
Skinny writers soak in sun from a hammock at the beach right from their desk.
Skinny writers smile with their eyes.
Skinny writers don’t need food; they draw in nutrients from the roots of their stories.
Skinny writers love deeply and fiercely, and remember wounds and gifts.
Skinny writers are quiet and loud; open and closed.
Skinny writers write to breathe.
To add to my risk, I am posting this here, now. Even as I write this, I am realizing that I am feeling really nervous about it! And as I feel the knot in the pit of my stomach, it is occurring to me that this will be good for my future classes and students. Remembering this knot is as important to my continuing work as any clever writing exercise I can dream up.
Please feel free to add to, comment, challenge or (gently) criticize this post. (Another risk!) I have always been grateful for any comments that have followed my posts; I am looking forward to the continuing conversation with this one, too. And, the final risk: I didn’t have any of my usual trusted “editors” read this over before I posted.
Skinny writers take risks.