Writing workshop time in my classroom. Twenty-three seventh graders look at me, waiting for inspiration to begin writing or, at the very least, waiting for a push in some direction. Prompts and invitations have started our class for months, filling their writer’s notebooks with seeds that I tell them will one day grow, if they choose to give one the nourishment it requires. But first, they have to see what’s hiding in there. They have to go mining.
Mine your notebook, I tell them. Find the word or phrase or idea that has potential. Sift through the writing like sand and find the nugget. Uncover the treasure.
So today, attempting to model what I want my students to do, I open my notebook. I see my words. My phrases and ideas. I’m sure there are some nuggets, some treasures, hiding in there, but what I notice most is what is missing: the words I haven’t written; the words that wait and seem to hover just over the page. What has not gotten onto the pages of my writer’s notebook are the words that need to be pushed out forcefully, like Elizabeth Bishop has shown me.
What happens to the stories that we never tell? What if, one day, we reveal our true nature? I worry that there is some balance or symmetry to the universe that will be irrevocably altered. Or, maybe, we all have our stories that hide, until the words trickle out between the lines of poems and in the backgrounds of photographs. Maybe there are always things lingering in the periphery. But, perhaps, it is finally time to put those stories and poems out there and see how the universe adjusts.