Talk With Your Pencil

Pencil With Books CartoonThe mother of artist/writer, Che Gilson, teacher of gifted students and ‘regular’ students (of which there are few), retired sub, wife et al. That’s me, Pendrah Gilson…Che and our friend, another writer, Sunny Frazier, have inspired me to send my writing somewhere…hopefully to somewhere that will publish it and make me rich. Some of my experiences include being a companion to one of Montana’s pioneer women, teaching in the backwoods of Louisiana, teaching on a Native Reservation, and growing up like the pioneers did-outdoor toilet, no electricity, no plumbing. I love toilet paper and no ticks or spiders threatening me while I…well, you get the idea.


For some writers, staring at a blank paper can be like staring at your parents dancing naked on the table (or worse). True for young or old alike. Teaching my young writers to fear no blank page is paramount. How? Fluency. Being able to write-a lot. Cover that page. My way is only one of many but this is how I get most of my second-fifth grade students to write.

Before I expect a plethora of writing, we do our 1-4 steps together orally. I model like crazy (modeling for adults is read like crazy) and tell them, “Writing is like talking out of your pencil.” They talk enough to fill two or three books a day. Each. Grownups are no better. Of course most of what we say is BORING so the trick is to ‘talk’ out of your pencil with something interesting, tantalizing, delectable. That is not in this blog. So, on to fluency.

1. Think of lots of ideas. Begin with the most concrete moving to the most abstract. E.g. list everything red, list every feeling you can, list as many responses to seeing an alien as you can.

2. Think of different ideas. When thinking of red items think of things in your dresser, in your closet, in your bedroom, in your bathroom, and keep moving your ideas from the imaginable to the unimaginable. Make it up.

3. Think of things that no one else in the room has thought of.

4. Find the most viable/interesting idea for your sentence, paragraph, story, essay. Now you are ready to turn it into writing.

Of course, there is a lot more involved in getting a second grade or fifth grade kid to write than one who is already a writer. As an adult, one can get stuck in a lot of ways: grammar, tone, descriptive language, development. However, those are bugs that can be worked out. A blank paper is, oh, shall we say, empty? Whether you’re eight, twenty-two, fifty-nine; whether you’re writing a paragraph, an essay, a novella, a novel, a tome filling each paper one at a time is what will get the job done. Fluency. Talk with your pencil. Fix the other stuff later.