From February through April, I was the “writer in residence” at Snack’s Crossing Elementary School.  This was sponsored by Second Story, a non-profit organization near and dear to my heart as we go into schools to work alongside students to encourage an excitement and love of creative writing.  I am just now getting a chance to reflect on some of that time.


Shake em off“I believe that I can accomplish anything.  But there are times where I was told that I could not do what I wanted to accomplish.  But I pushed that aside and kept going.” –Mackenzie, fourth grade

My brother used to draw.

He wasn’t a big comic book guy, that was me, but he enjoyed art, pictures of all kinds, especially drawing. As a teenager, I could squirrel myself away in my room for hours scribbling in my teenage angst-ridden imitation of Poe. My brother would draw. Not only would he draw, but he decorated his room with this eclectic collection of picture clippings and random pieces of art. It was wonderfully imaginative: you’d walk into his room and be met by this collage of images.

My mother hated it.  She never saw herself as being particularly discouraging.  This was just her typical brand of “negative encouragement” as she tried to steer him back on a course she judged to be more realistic and practical.

It’s easy to squelch the creative impulse in children.  We may not mean to.  Children have many voices speaking into their lives—parents, teachers, friends—many of them well-intended.  Some of them inadvertently negative.  Telling us they can’t do something, that they’re not good enough, that it’s too hard for them, and even through benign neglect, that such things aren’t expected from them.

That’s why one of our early writing exercises is “shaking off the haters.”  We write down the things that people tell us we can’t do or is “too hard” for us to do, then we tear up that list.  It doesn’t matter if it is math, writing, singing, doing fashion design, making music, or drawing, we shake off the haters. (NOTE:  This may or may not have involved a lot of jumping around to shake them off.  And we may or may not have gotten complaints of our “writing” being too loud.)

Or, as another one of my fourth graders, Cheyenne, put it:  “I don’t care what people think when it comes to my dreams.”