One of the great writing teachers at my school (Cindy Darling) takes her students on an annual “writing marathon.” She has done this for the past few years, and each year the experience gets a little bit bigger and the group travels a little bit further. But a few things always stay the same, according to Cindy’s guidelines.
- Writers begin a marathon by turning to each other and saying, “I’m a writer.”
- We split into our class groups to go to restaurants, coffeehouses, parks, etc., where we eat, write, and share our way across the city.
- Our writing starts on the train on the way into the city.
- We follow basic rules: allow about ten-twenty minutes of uninterrupted free-writing time. Each group member then shares. We limit responses to a simple “Thank you” after each student’s share.
- A connection and synergy develops in each group as participants see that the writing they generate throughout the marathon springs organically from the place around them. Some writing also contains the seeds for future revision.
- Groups find their own path. Students will visit 3-4 different locations in NYC over the course of the morning.
Boiled down, this experience offers students choice, autonomy, the opportunity to share, the opportunity to learn from their peers, self-directed learning, community, a chance to slow down, a chance to appreciate a local environment, generative practice, and maybe best of all, a model for the creative life. It’s the kind of event that reminds me about the transformative power of school, properly administered.