by Dominique Lie
“Have eyes for all you see, ears for all you hear, and above all throw your whole heart into it. Soon you will find that you do have imagination, and you’ll have many thoughts to write down.” – Hans Christian Andersen
“I have nothing to write about.”
For me, this thought would often preclude anything related to writing.
In every stage of my educational career, there were times when I would find my mind blocked as I struggled to write about the journal prompt given by my teacher for a daily writing assignment.
Journal prompts that asked me to write a story starting with every letter of the alphabet, describe interesting observations about my neighborhood, or even about what happened during my weekend left my thoughts scrambled.
After questioning and listening to my classmates, it seemed that I wasn’t the only student with this problem. In the end, I would always finish just before the timer rang, then hide behind my classmates hoping that the teacher would forget that I had not shared an entry that week.
In truth, after leaving class and reflecting on the prompt, I realized that I did have something to write about.
There were stories my parents told, such as one from the Mahabharata, about the elephant named Ashvatthama, or the fable about a rebellious son who turned his mother into a frog after being reincarnated. All these stories led me to desire reading books that would transport me to distant fantasy worlds, enhancing my imagination and thus allowing me to complete the assignments requiring words to emerge from the creative recesses of my brain.
I realized that I could recall the neighbor who raised chickens, the neighbor who has lived on my street for 50 years, and the best spot in my neighborhood to be when watching fireworks as they crackle and flash in the horizon on Independence Day.
I noticed the importance of acknowledging the simple and exciting moments during a lengthy holiday break.
Especially during this time of year, I can distinctly remember the rain pouring down in torrents the day my parents took my sisters and me to watch “The Cat in the Hat” after losing tickets to a Disney On Ice show. I also think of the way my father and sisters left for Las Vegas a little later, after my mother, brother and me, to wait for my Christmas present to arrive through the mail, so that they could see the way my eyes glowed when I saw it.
Only after reflecting on experiences was I able to recognize the importance of observation and creativity. It was easy for me to presume that my words were insignificant. After all, there were a limited number of people who had access to the books full of the priceless thoughts I have had throughout my life.
After recalling a particular moment of third-grade me sitting at my desk with the
ever-present issue of “having nothing to write,” I now reread the comments my teacher left me and realize that she was able to connect the words of an inexperienced 8-year-old (who misspelled the word “school”) to her own life.
I believe that at some point all students wonder about the worth of their ingenuity and words. It’s a reality that as our society becomes more shallow and insensitive, due to the rising popularity of social media programs, we are continually being asked to reevaluate the importance of what we write, say and post.
If there was anything to be taken away from having completed a journal, I would say that it helped me understand just how important my words were.
Listening to my sister as she read my third-grade journal, “My Book of Thoughts,” and reading it again for myself, I realize that I did not have the best ideas to write or the most complex thoughts to present, however, even as someone with so little experience, I knew the importance of completing tasks with as much passion I could give, and I endeavor to apply this to every facet of my life.
So now I start a new chapter of my journey with a new thought:
“I have something to write.”