Sparks & Starts: "The Play" from YCMTPB
A memoir chapter's initial inspiration & handwritten notes
Last week I had the honor of giving the keynote address at the annual MCTE (Michigan Council of Teachers of English) conference. In my remarks, I talked about what I think of as the core principles of creativity, and how we might apply them to the work we do for our students and for ourselves. I focused on four: curiosity, vulnerability, tenacity, and hope.
As an example of modeling vulnerability in the classroom, I talked about sharing early drafts of my own writing with my students: the ugly, messy drafts full of terrible cliches and bad line breaks. The scrawled notebook pages with mixed metaphors and rotten titles and sentimental, pat endings. Is it sometimes embarrassing to do this? Yes! Is there part of me who wants other people to think I get it right on the first try every time? Yes! But that’s not authentic. It’s not true.
One of my goals as a teacher of creative writing, and one of my goals for this newsletter, is to demystify the creative process. When we teach or mentor other writers, I think it’s important to tell the truth: There is no graduating from the creative process. We are all perpetual students. No amount of experience, and no amount of success, exempts us from the hard work of writing messy first drafts and improving over time. That’s not a bug, it’s a feature.
Today I’m sharing the initial notes for “The Play” in my memoir, You Could Make This Place Beautiful. These are three of the many pages I wrote in my notebook while sitting up at the bar at Kittie’s, the bakery/cafe attached to my beloved neighborhood indie bookstore, Gramercy Books. I was reading Sarah Ruhl’s terrific book 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write and probably, knowing me, washing down a cinnamon roll with some strong black coffee.