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Work: Project 180, Day 14

Maisie: This is hard.

Me: Yep. You’re not wrong, Mais. How can I help?

I don’t try to sugarcoat things with my kids. Writing is creating, and creating is a messy, hard affair. But it’s also a deeply satisfying affair. There’s a certain satisfaction to be found in work. I want them to find that satisfaction, to discover that reward. And that reward is not limited to the “perfect paper” in the end. It is open, wide open, to the pursuit of progress, the grit in growth. My kids are in such a rush to “write to get done,” slaves to the product, that they don’t know how to embrace the process, which I believe is the real reward, the beauty in the mess. And so, I am glad that they find it hard. It is a necessary struggle, a struggle I am eager to support.

Yesterday, Maisie found the struggle in starting. And I found a struggle to support. So I sat down on the floor, back resting against the wall, looking up at her, listening to her, asking questions, offering suggestions, until she found a path. And purposefully, I was not quiet. I wanted the other kids to hear about her struggle and listen to my support. I wanted them to confront their own struggles, to solicit my support, too. They did. And I “supported” my butt off for the rest of the period. And, in that, I engaged in my own creative work, discovering beautiful messes from one kid to the next, digging into the difficult, reveling in the connection of shared work.

I live for those connections. And to help create those connections, when I canI do the work with the kids. I am writing along with them, sharing my own struggles and successes through the process. Yesterday, I introduced hooks. And while the kids have had experiences in the past with hooks, I seek to raise the bar. I expect three things from a hook.

  1. It gets the reader’s attention.
  2. It helps create context.
  3. It resurfaces in the end.

In addition, I try to put the following notion into the kids’ heads.

Hooks are not something we do for readers; hooks are something that we do to readers. I add, then, that writers are manipulators. We use language to plant seeds, to paint scenes, to suggest views. We use our power to put the reader’s mind where we need it to be. And so, nothing is neither a simple motion, nor a random act. Everything is intention. We write with intention, and that intention is not without consideration of audience. Indeed, we cannot manipulate that which we have not considered. So we consider audience.

Okay. But what’s the end game? How does this serve in the real world? Well, whether it’s a cover letter for a job application, an essay for a scholarship, an answer in an interview, or an essay for a college application, there is real-world power in making oneself standout, making oneself memorable. I tell the kids when they begin filling out college and scholarship apps next year, I want them to have the ability, the power to be the kid who gets remembered from the hundreds of others against whom they are competing. And simply going through the motions of putting words on a page leads not to that end. They have to write with intention, they have to be manipulators. They have to be writers.

Yesterday, I asked them to evaluate how I tried to get their attention and if I helped create context with my own hook. I projected and read my example.

I wore them to bed that first night. No one knew. I even had to be sneaky about getting into my top bunk, turning off the light early so my brother wouldn’t see as I climbed the end of the bed. Mission accomplished, I settled in, seeking slumber, but it eluded me, I was too excited.

I still couldn’t believe it. Nikes. My very own Nikes. I must have traced the swoop a hundred times, falling just short of calling them “My precious.” I was excited, not crazy. And though I didn’t make it through the whole night with them on my feet–they got uncomfortable, I would wear them to school the next day. The next day I would be cool. Nikes. My very own.


For attention, they discovered my intention of not immediately revealing “the object.” They tuned into the “sneaky effect.” And, they noted my allusion to The Lord of the Rings. All intended.

For context, they noted I was young (bunk bed, school). They understood that I had gotten and was really excited about a new pair of shoes. And they also guessed that maybe I was not in the cool crowd. All intended.

And then, I shared the required “basic situation” and “my message.”

Basic situation: In fourth grade, I was humiliated for wearing a pair of “used” shoes.

My Message(s):

Bad Experiences can provide important lessons.

How we view ourselves is more important than how others view us.

From there, we set to work. Before starting their hooks, kids had to identify their situations and messages. I also asked them to review the hook handout I provided for them with eighteen different hook types, definitions and examples (shared in yesterday’s post). And today we continue. Today we work.

Today’s Trail

Along today’s trail we will…

…begin with Smiles and Frowns.

…continue our work on our narrative essays.

…reflect in our Journey Journals.

Happy Tuesday, all.

Do. Reflect. Do Better.


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