Kids want instructions, lots of them, to be certain they’re doing it right, whatever “it” is, whatever “right” is. Each approached the assignment like baby birds on the edge of the nest. Some watched out of the corners of their eyes to see what other students were doing. Some plunged right in and drew what they thought I wanted. Some frowned and made a sloppy interpretation of the assignment, while others asked for a ruler. A few asked for more directions and flipped their pencils when I refused. During each class, one or two or lots of the kids made a box that broke the rules, writing a word that wasn’t “peace,” drawing a square that was a circle, a squiggly line, or a rectangle. Every once in while, a kid sat and refused to do anything.
As we talked about what each student had drawn (or hadn’t), they realized I wasn’t looking for conformity or for a correct answer, but for them to find a way to begin their own creative process. Someone always got the visual pun – drawing outside the box. Today’s kids aren’t brighter than their grandparents, but they’ve more savvy, exposed to world issues via computer and endless feeds on their devices. They’re experienced at accessing instant information. Still, they want the sure thing.
When I started writing, I wanted a sure thing as well, a well marked path to publication and books on a shelf at Barnes & Noble. Nowadays the path to publication is a circuitous route to a multitude of publishing options. Authors choose one way or another and still must promote their books as if flagging down trains to take them to the closest constellation.