I met a student this past fall. The kind of student who talks out of turn. The kind of student who looks lazy. The kind of student who shows up to school without a jacket when it’s cold out. The kind of student it’s easy to dismiss. Easy to label.
This student didn’t start out well when he participated in my playwriting project at his school. He never got to work right away. We clashed a little. And I dismissed him. And I labelled him. And then offhandedly, he mentioned that he worked better on computer, and sometimes signed one out at the school. So we made sure he brought a laptop to class.
When this student was able to work in a method he was comfortable with, he took off like a rocket. This student wrote like a mad demon. It was astonishing. And every subsequent day he defied dismissing. He defied labelling. Was his writing polished? Well-formatted? Grammatically correct? None of the above. And yet he wrote. Every day I was amazed at the stories he had to tell. And every time I told him to keep going, he wrote more and more and more.
This student’s teacher recently told me that not only had he started a play for his final class project, he had developed it. And finished it. And it was quite good. I feel despair that I initially dismissed him. And elation that I told him to keep writing. I’m elated that I didn’t let myself be totally swayed by my first impression.
We all can write. We all have something to say. Sometimes, we need different tools. Sometimes we need a twenty step process when others use ten. Sometimes we simply need someone to tell us to keep going. That what we have to say is worthwhile.
This is not about creating a legion of playwrights. It’s about expression. The act of expressing something. That is a valuable skill no matter who you are, or what you do. Paula Vogel agrees, in this article I read today. Which is what prompted the title to this post. We all can write. We all are storytellers. We all have something to express. It’s human nature. It fills me with despair when that nature is squashed. It fills me with hope when someone who shouldn’t achieve, has been told they can’t succeed, that they couldn’t possibly write, does. And does it well.