Family Life / The English Teacher / The Social Network

The Park Bench

I invite my students to write every day. Some days I demand it. My job: training young writers to put words on paper and make much of ideas. I want them to  ‘discover the magic’ without even going to Disney World. A couple of days ago, they were faced with fleshing out a simile. As it hardly seems gracious of me to not experience a bit of their writing task, today, I write my version. Writing is like a park bench…

Park benches tempt us with the opportunity to slow down, “set a spell,” and view the world as it passes by. Writing is like that. The park, a mostly green expanse designed for those who remain forever trapped in a concrete city space, provides a respite – a place to breathe, feed the ducks, listen to the quiet. The workaday world demands our attention and we mostly give it – noses and hands to the grindstone, whatever our version of it that might be. The off-time – the time spent away from the money-making challenges – well, that clamors for our attention too. To the park we might turn – for a walk or a bicycle ride. And before we leave, maybe a few moments of just sitting on that bench that beckons us: Come. sit. Just be, for a moment. Writing is like that.

Writing – the process, not the product – demands that we slow down and look at the world while we’re busy living it. The writer’s eyes & ears observe, take in, explore. Ducks paddle about in the pond. The wind whistles wind through pine needles, and a heavy step snaps a fallen twig. Dancing sunlight shines on a flock of sparrows. Suddenly, laughter erupts as friends, oblivious to the natural beauty but delighted in their own company, stroll by. Only when the writer takes in life – both by experiencing and observing it – can she manipulate its realities to bring readers to a true understanding of how our living works. The park bench becomes the seat, not merely for rest, but for inspiration. That quiet bench awakens every sense. The sights and sounds and scents on the air spark a fresh thought. Words abound. Writing – the product, through the process – results.

Writing – the product – indeed is like that park bench. An odd sort of simile to sort out, but a true one, I think. A writer’s mind and hands are nearly endlessly busy. She searches her memory bank for poignant, hilarious or useful memoir fodder, digs through the best words other writers have left behind, forces words onto the page each day. You’ll also find her cleaning up messes, hauling children to school, weeding the flowerbeds and frying up bacon that she probably brought home with the hard-earned rewards of her ‘day job.’ But the writing side of her life insists on a park bench – a quiet place to see, hear, be. A place where thoughts can tumble about. A place to encounter a fresh image – where words can gather to make something new. And those words will rest– scribbled, scrawled or meticulously typed – resting in a quiet place, where sunlight dances on a flock of sparrows and the wind whistles through the pines, waiting for someone to slow down, ‘set a spell,’ and find an inspired rest as they read a bit of the world that the writer has created.

Writing and reading – those friends delighted in each other’s company, stroll through the park, and passing a park bench where a writer sits. Watching. Listening. Finding something to write. Indeed, writing is like a park bench. A place to read the world.

 

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