Sunday, February 28, 2010

Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas?

During this past week, I have been focusing on this particular question, trying to tease out the connection to the world the writer inhabits. it is this world that provides the ideas a writer can mine. It is the rich vein the writer must tap to create texts.


Our youngest writers frequently undervalue their own lives and the small and large moments that punctuate those lives, as a source for writing. They often cling to second hand experiences derived from watching television and dvd's, playing video and computer games as a narrow source of potential writing ideas. They remain unaware that this means their writing is frequently a rehashing of somebody else's ideas. We are all influenced by such experiences, but it would be sad if it was used to the exclusion of all those rich experiences that take place beyond the small screen. Kids miss out if this is all that inspires their thinking.

 So how do we assist our students to make stronger connections to their own experiences? Afterall, we write best about those things we know the most about.

Well, this week I spent time in classrooms modelling how I gain ideas for writing from a wide source including artefacts, mementoes, keepsakes, treasures, junk -you name it. I brought with me a collection of such items in a bag. Students were invited to select an item from the bag and then I told them the story connected to that particular keepsake. I had a diverse range of items including an old camera, an antique spice container, a medal, a Turkish coin, a photograph, and a ticket from the Sydney Olympic games. I was able to provide rich background details about each of the items. I told them how I had already used some of these items as writing ideas. I challenged them to go home and seek out their own treasures as a potential writing source. Ideas can be found in 'things.'

I challenged them to utilize their senses to identify potential writing ideas. Small moments in their lives have enormous potential for writing, if they are tuned in. -if they have their personal radar working- if they observe and eavesdrop! Things we know writers need to do. A writer without ideas is a non event!

I shared some of the books from my personal library, pointing out the influence these authors have had on my writing style. I wanted them to understand that writers must be readers.

I told them how important it is for writers to have rich conversations around writing, for ideas also reside in talk and discussion.

I shared a collection of my writer's notebooks, encouraging each group of students to be researchers and seek out the range of influences on my collection of entries. They made lists of the various things they noticed, and then shared their findings with their fellow writers, adding extra ideas shared in their discussions. The room buzzed with energy as they told me of their intentions going forward from this point. They now had a broader vision of where they might harvest and gather potential writing ideas.

Starting tomorrow, I am taking part in a month long writing challenge, trying to capture slices of life throughout the month of March. My challenge is to post an entry every single day. Join me as I live my life and attempt to capture those slices. Maybe you and your students might also be inspired to take up a similiar challenge...

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