Began my first day volunteering at Lodestar Day Resource Center in downtown Phoenix today. I’m now the facility’s Creative Writing class instructor. The class is open to all those who use the center, Tuesdays 1-2PM. Talking to other volunteers @Lodestar (in particular, the woman who runs the Arts & Crafts workshop, who at one time incorporated writing lessons into her classes as well), I was not encouraged to have too high of hopes: “If you can get them writing a full paragraph with complete sentences … you should count that as a success.”
But then I went around the facility, introducing myself to tables of people and telling them my creative writing workshop was about to start. A lot of people were interested (incl. two self-proclaimed “wiccan poets” .. how fun!) but only four people actually showed today. And they proved all the haters wrong.
On my way over to Lodestar this afternoon, while riding the light rail, I double-checked the “writing warm-up” sheets I’d made last night. (Basically, trying to make a fun word association + flash fiction exercise.) It was a challenging prompt, but I had more faith than the other volunteers, maybe.
Question 5, the final question, on the warm-up: Close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Now open your eyes. Write down the first word that comes to mind. [this would be the title of a story to write within the hour, using the words from the other questions.]
Only, I noticed a typo. Instead of “Now open your eyes,” I had typed, “Now you’re your eyes.” How that’d happened, what I’d been thinking, I don’t recall, but I hand-corrected each of the 20+ sheets in pen on the light rail. I scratched out “you’re” and replaced it with “open” on my way to volunteer.
The class did not go as expected, but better. All four attendees absolutely attacked the warm-up, relishing in the challenge and opportunity to write in a new way. I’ll approach the next few weeks with similar prompts, (as requested), then moving on to forms (quatrain, haiku etc.) and maybe even conducting a creative writing workshop proper.
My new friends are good enough to handle such a challenge. Better than good enough. Their writing blew me away. Two of them finished a whole story within the hour, operating completely within the prompt. They showed me their efforts–genuine, meticulous, poetic verse, much more than “one full paragraph, with complete sentences.”
Volunteering today made me so happy. This may become one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Writing isn’t for everyone–but it should be there for anyone who wants it.