Slice of Life: My First Writing Lesson

When I was ten, I was assigned a state report.

I picked the state of Mississippi because I thought that was where my grandmother grew up. My grandma’s family was legendary, mainly because we didn’t discuss the other side. Family stories were my momma and my grandma’s specialty.  So I chose Mississippi for my state report, thinking it would be exciting. Something that would make them all proud of me.

My research began with the Encyclopedia Britannica that my dad bought at the local used bookstore.  Always useful for those assigned reports, I looked up Mississippi and read. Looking back, I suspect I had a slim grasp of the text,  probably just copied it all onto my 3 x 5 notecards., the way the teacher taught us.

A day or two before the report was due; I sat down to write my paper. I had drawn and colored the state flower, the magnolia, I had a stack of notecards. I had a green plastic cover. I was ready for the finishing touches, the report writing.

I sat on my blue and green shag carpet after school, leaning against my double bed, staring at the white lined paper, sifting through my notecards, thinking, “What next?” I hadn’t a clue.

I must have sat there long enough for my momma to come looking. At some point before dinner, I heard a knock and a, “Can I come in?”

Turning the handle, she shoved the door open just missing me on the floor, spread out in my sorry mess.

“How’s it going?” she asked.

I looked up and confessed. I had no idea of how to even try.

I was found out. I wasn’t very smart.

My momma sat beside me and said, “Don’t worry about what you write. Just get it out on the page. Don’t worry about how or even what you say, just get it on the page. Then we’ll go from there.”

At that moment, I was released and supported. Freed, with a safety net, my mom.

Just get it down on the page.

To have the permission to be imperfect.

To not worry about the spelling (I was and still am a terrible speller, which drove my mom nuts) or “run-on” sentences whatever that was.

To just get it down and know my mom had my back.

Thinking back, this was my first and best writing lesson.

To this day as a teacher of writing, this will always be the best first writing lesson.

Just get it on paper; then we’ll go from there.

Can’t say I remember much about the content of that report, beyond the state flower, and that my family wasn’t from Mississippi. It was Missouri.

To Two Writing Teachers Blog, for the place to get just get it down; to the Slice of Life community for being a present day safety net; to my mom, my first and best writing teacher, thank you.

Happy Slice of Life Tuesday read more slices here.