You always hear it around the time of the first fall snowstorm in Minnesota: “It’s like people have forgotten how to drive!” It refers to the fact that even drivers who are diehard Minnesotans — as evidenced by the Minnesota Vikings flags flying from their pickup antennas — don’t seem to have the tiniest clue how to drive on snow-packed roads. It’s as if they’ve never seen winter before.
I guess we just get spoiled during the other six months of the year, when the driving is “easy.”
I find that writing can be like that, too. No matter how many years I’ve flown the “writer” flag from my antenna, there are times when the writing comes easy, and times when it feels like I’ve “forgotten how to write.”
It’s true for me as a longtime writer, and I’ve found it’s true for young writers who are just starting out as well. So what can help to steer a writer out of a creative season that’s forecasting blizzard conditions? Sometimes a simple writing warm-up can melt the creative brain-freeze!
I’ve shared several writing warm-ups that work well for students and classrooms in past posts; you might want to check some of them out. Another of my favorites helps jumpstart the writing process by putting actual words into the hands of young writers. It’s super-simple and fun: I share out words from Magnetic Poetry Kits, hand around old cookie sheets, and ask students to “cook up” a poem to warm things up. I’ll often remind them about some of the poetry-writing basics that we’ve covered in past sessions (this varies based on the age of the students, but might include concepts such as using all five senses, alliteration, figurative language, and paying attention to the sound of the words).
Having preprinted words in hand, added to the simple fun of playing with magnets, works as a kind of anti-freeze. Before you know it, the writing forecast is for clear and sunny.