Dear Teacher… {Six-Word Wednesday}

I recently shared six-word stories, one of my favorite writing forms, with my high school students, on a day we could actually breathe a little.

 Any more, these days are few and far between.  No observers.  No guests.  No testing.

 Just time to write. Creatively.

Makes me miss (even more!) the days when Reading/Writing Workshop was the foundation of my then-middle and later-high school reading classes.

After a brief intro to six-word stories that included my collection of nearly 1,000 six-word stories written by my HS students the past three years and showing the Smith Mag web site, my kiddos were ready to dive in.  I made it an optional writing activity, since it was really our Independent Reading/SSR day ~ a rarity this year, scheduled for 1st and 3rd Wednesdays, and any extra day I can build in.

Within five minutes, the basket of blank index cards was empty and students were asking for more.  I collected a little over 100 six-word stories that day!  And every day since last week, I find more six-word stories in the designated basket near my desk. 

Found this one yesterday, from a student who said last week, “I can’t stop writing six-word stories in my head!”


Lindsey's message to all of us...
Lindsey’s message to all of us… (in 6)
Thanks, Lindsey! I promised to pass it along… 🙂   Let’s hope they’re listening.


p.s. ~ For Orange is the New Black fans, there’s an interesting connection between Piper Kerman’s memoir and this writing form. You can read about it [here]. Might have to do a little research …..


Creative Chaos?!?!

I took this picture yesterday ….

Home Office Desk
What?! I can’t hear you over the noise on my desk…

I’d love to tell you it was a few minutes of messiness, but that would be a BIG, FAT, l.i.e.

Can you relate?

Or, are you shrieking as you look at the cacophony that threatens to swallow my desk in its discord?

One day last week, as 1st period was getting underway, one of my HS students suddenly proclaimed, “You must be really organized in your home office!”  Another student enthusiastically agreed, “Yea!!”

I don’t remember what spurred this revelation, but it was clear in that moment that my students have met Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and don’t even know it.  🙂

They (my students, not Jekyll and Hyde) know I’m a blogger/writer, have a home office, and don’t have kiddos under foot.  They also know our classroom is organized; everything has its place and everything is labeled.

I smiled and thought, “If only you knew!” Before I could fess up, morning announcements began. *Saved by the Pledge of Allegiance. Phew!

Truth is, my classroom and my home office are polar opposites. It would be easy to think the spaces belong to two different people. Enter Jekyll and Hyde….

It’s kind of weird, really.

Or is it??

I’m pretty sure I get the whole J/H thing….

At home, my creativity gets to run rampant … and it shows. I often say my home office space (aka my Creative Space) is a reflection of my mind…. Holy Messy, Batman!!!!  A gazillion ideas compete for my attention. Constantly. Relentlessly. Ruthlessly.


Piles of books, magazines, and newspapers – on my desk, on the floor, on a table, on shelves, on each other!

But Wait...

Sticky notes hang precariously from most surfaces – of quotes overheard, lists to do, and ideas in progress.  A 4′ x 5′ whiteboard covered with scribbled notes – snippets of ideas waiting to be developed – hangs above my desk – for inspiration and to not forget(!)  Did I mention all this STUFF in my head contributes (I think) to my forgetfulness.  Sigh…..

Then …. there are the half-finished projects of all sorts – writing, crafts, school-related, gifts, you name it.

My husband, a neatnik, has become comfortably numb to the situation, no doubt his coping mechanism.  😉

So, what’s up with this messiness?  In my surfing, ummm…..  reading on this and that, I’ve run across a few things…

Creativity is chaotic, so say some.

Seems several have quoted John Briggs and F. David Peat from their book, Seven Life Lessons of Chaos, in which they suggest, “Chaos is evolving from a scientific theory into a cultural metaphor. As a metaphor it allows us to query some of our most cherished assumptions and encourages us to ask fresh questions about reality.”

Well, it’s clear my reality involves piles of ideas, still under construction.  I find comfort in the messiness.  Usually.

In the academic arena, there’s talk [here] that suggests, “Tidiness and academic work just don’t go together…” an idea explained by the piles of books, articles, and student papers often found in college profs’ offices.



So why are my spaces so different?  My answer, in a recent post, is [here].  Short version?  Structure gives my high school students (and me) stability in our learning environment.  Our writing is messy. Our thinking is messy. But our classroom is organized…. so WE can be messy.  Win-win.  They are, after all, teenagers, and well, messy.  Their teacher-mom helps them put things in order…

Want to know more?  Check out this great article over at Fast Company.  Several of my favorite ‘creatives’ talk about connecting the dots, visually explained by cartoonist Hugh MacLeod, aka The Napkin Guy.  Definitely check him out!

Turns out ~ all those piles, unfinished projects, snippets, and bookmarked sites are my dots. They are my flow, as I disappear into my writing world for hours on end, content and focused, blissful inside the messy chaos.

Mostly, they’ll stay scattered throughout my space, but every now and again, my brain yearns for quiet and order…. and all the dots must line up neatly and wait their turn.
Are you creatively chaotic?

Or do you prefer the organization described by Roy Peter Clark (one of my favorite writing instructors) in Writing Tools

Writing Tools

Save String, he advises (#44).

While he suggests this system for larger projects, I immediately saw its usefulness for gathering all writing ideas when I first read his book. It speaks to my organized side to help connect all those dots…. maybe in the future I’ll adopt that approach more often?


But for now, who’s with me?
Messy or methodical?  Where do you fall?

Process is Messy

In my high school classroom, I have a poster:  Writing is messy. 

My students’ interpretations fall somewhere between, “Well, yea, my handwriting IS messy!” to “No, that’s not true. I have nice handwriting, so my writing isn’t messy.”  What’s missing from their interpretations?

The real meaning of ‘messy’ as it relates to learning.

And so begins our year-long discussion about the ‘messiness’ of learning:  writing, process, thinking, figuring stuff out, process, product, process, discussing, process… You get the idea.  It’s m.e.s.s.y. And there’s an awful lotta ‘process’ goin’ on!

By the end of the school year, they’ve got it.  (Well, some of them, anyway.)

Since ‘process’ is my middle name (or should have been… mom, are you listening?), I chuckled when I saw this illustration in Austin Kleon’s newest book, Show Your Work! 10  Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered.

Process is Messy

Yes, it is!  Messy, indeed.

Note to self:  Enlarge the image and put it in classroom.

Is your process messy?  Does messy make you happy or uncomfortable?

Without messy, I’d be a mess! 🙂

The Pocket Muse 2: Endless Inspiration for Writers {Great Reads}

The Pocket Muse 2“Anybody can write a book, ’cause everybody has a story to tell.”
Marianne Moore, Author/Poet

Last week I found myself in the bookstore again, this time to replace a book I loaned and haven’t seen since.

The Pocket Muse 2,  an entirely different genre from the missing business book, spoke to my interest in writing, with its inviting photography, creative type-set and graphics, and beautiful language.

Monica Wood explains in the Introduction that this book was a result of her own despair, feeling as though she was facing, “mortal combat with a novel in progress… stranded and miserable with my sheaf of false starts and dead ends.”  She invites the reader to use the book as a source of both “inspiration and advice” in the journey to find one’s own words in what she calls an “act of faith.”

Ready to tell your own story? Because everyone’s got one to tell, apparently.  Ready to tap into your own creativity… find it, develop it, maybe share it?  The Pocket Muse 2 is a great tool to get you started.

By the way, the Missing In Action business book, (reason for the bookstore drop-in), didn’t get purchased.  Guess I’ll have to plan another visit soon.   😉