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Stuck? Demoralized? Here’s help and hope from Barbara Baig

“If we taught children to walk the way we teach them to write, they’d never learn.” (Mark Twain)

Some of you know that I have added a high school writing class to my teaching load this year. I have seven bright, motivated young men twice a week. I tell you what, these guys keep me on my toes! So I’ve been digging into my collection of ‘How-To’ books.

Barbara Baig’s gentle approach to writing is deceptively simple … and powerful. Using a pen, a (private) notebook, and a timer, students learn the skill of putting words on paper. Here’s the trick: Once you begin writing, you must keep the pen moving for ten minutes. Period. No backtracking, no crossing out. Forget grammar rules or even making sense! Get words on the page.

And you start off writing nonsense. But it’s like jogging on the treadmill: the hardest part is getting started. After five minutes or so, something happens. The creative mind kicks in. Suddenly you’ll find yourself working on a new scene in a story, or thinking out, on paper, the solution to a complex problem. It’s uncanny, this unlocking of the creative mind. Best of all, there’s a paper trail. You don’t “lose” what you thought. It’s all there to work with.

For a fledgling writer, the discipline of freewriting is revolutionary. My boys will tell you that after three weeks of daily ten minute freewrites, they’ve grown. “My short story,” said one student, tapping his notebook, “is all in here.”

And for the experienced writer? Learning to connect with the creative mind is empowering.

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