The Invictus Writers project is ostensibly about writing in the sense that my young writers are graded upon their ability to turn in two different pieces of prose. (Actually, it’s just one piece of writing, but it will be in two different forms. The particulars of that aren’t particularly interesting for you. Trust me.)
I have given them only four pieces of information: 3 descriptions and illustrations of writing tools (exposition, narrative description, dialogue) and 1 story framework (The Hero’s Journey). We covered everything about writing in one day, and I fear even that may have been more than necessary.
One day in 17 weeks on writing, which is about right because really the project is about finding voice, finding connection with emotions, and finding how each one connects to the world at large.
Each week, these young writers are asked – not forced, not coerced, not graded – to talk about themselves, their lives, and their stories. And each week, we dissect their emotions, we delve into the moments of their lives, and we explore the different ways we might see those moments.
In the first week, two students shared stories with a group of strangers they hadn’t shared with their friends and family. Another broke down in tears.
All of them came back to class determined to write, and determined to help their fellow writers. They have formed a private Facebook group (professors not invited), and they have set up weekly writing sessions (no help from me).
They send me notes and ask for direction. They take on writing challenges presented in class, and attack them even though every part of their mind screams for them to stop.
They write not because they are in a class; they write because they don’t have any other option.
When we begin to tear apart the facades we create within our lives, the ones that allow us to safely navigate the complex and complicated mazes of human interaction, we look around and realize almost nobody else is here.
It’s why these young writers have started to support each other, and why they continue to write these painful stories.
They realize — as writers do — that when write, you aren’t just telling a story, you’re sending out a beacon. You are a lighthouse for the lost souls who are just waiting for a sign — no, permission — to start their own journey.
These young writers still hope I will have answers for them. They will wait in vain, I’m afraid, as the previous writers have waited.
Writing isn’t a vocation. It’s not a skill that you learn in a class. Writing is a way of living. It is a way of looking at the world.
Writing is life. And you simply have to live it.