When I was in the seventh grade, I had an English teacher named Mrs. Stroloski. Mrs. Stroloski made us learn and memorize the most difficult of vocabulary words (though I was completely enamored with the word disheveled), encouraged us to read from books far overreaching our comprehension level (in my expert opinion as a middle school student), and bid us to write in cursive at all times during her class period (a skill I hadn’t put to use since the fourth grade). Aside from her gorgeous handwriting and affinity for the color purple, I was never too fond of Mrs. S.
However, there was one writing drill that she would instruct the class to complete every Friday, and thanks to this exercise, I can look back on my seventh grade English experience with a little more appreciation than most of my middle school counterparts.
Here’s how it worked: For 5 minutes, you had to write. No stopping. No pausing. No delays. Just words and letters. Even if you couldn’t think of your next sentence, you just had to repeat the same word or the same letter until your thoughts continued to flow. Nonstop. No limits. No topics. Just you, and the constant movement of your pen writing sloppily half-forgotten cursive down on your composition notebook.
Looking back now, I can’t remember most of what I wrote as a seventh grader. I remember complementing Mrs. Stroloski on choosing the color purple to adorn the classroom, I remember talking about how excited I was that they were serving pizza in the cafeteria right after an eventful and delicious taco day, and I also vaguely remember reading A Christmas Carol in her class and expressing my love and devotion to Santa Claus. Riveting stuff, I know. I may have even used the word disheveled a time or two or ten.
But I think that’s the moment when I realized that it felt good to write. I did not like how my cursive capital letters looked, but I sure did like expressing myself through the written word.
Sometimes I still practice this drill, as it seems great for relieving writer’s block, but often, I simply reflect on my classroom experience with Mrs. S. and wonder if the other kids that she’s taught over the years still recall this activity and are able to remember what the word disheveled means.