New Pen 1, Blank Page 0

All it took was a bright new set of Flair pens.

I recently met with a student, she was a typical overachieving junior with a laundry list of activities, AP classes, stints as a volunteer, and high aspirations of gaining admissions to an “elite” college.

Her English teacher had assigned a new paper, “The Common App Essay.” While at first, I wondered why this teacher was doing this now, as it was only April, I thought, why not – this is a great dress rehearsal.

When she sat down to start the paper, my student was frozen, she could not write a single word. In fact, she claimed that she had no ideas to write about.

Despite my endless suggestions, rescheduled appointments to accommodate her writing time, she had nothing, nada, zip. Despite her mother’s pleading, yelling, and bribing to get this assignment done before the end of the quarter… still, nothing, nada, zip.

All she had was a blank page.

So at her session with me, I cleared the table, literally – I took everything away, the phone, my computer, my jars of candy – everything. I put a yellow legal pad in front of her and then presented her with my secret stash of Flair pens. Remember the brightly colored, juicy felt tips that just oozed creativity? I presented them to her like a bouquet. I told her to choose one.

After a feeble attempt at resisting my request, she took the blue, then the purple, then switched to green before settling in with the fuschia-colored pen. I told her she had twenty minutes to write about What She Believes In. I set the timer and said simply, “go.”

Meanwhile, I went to my desk and pushed around some papers, returned a few emails, and tried to hide my smile as she furiously sat there writing.

When the timer went off – she said, “No wait – I’m not done.”

I gave her five more minutes.

It was the most beautiful writing I have seen from her in a while. Yes, it did need some editing, yes it did need to be chopped down to the 650-word limit for the Common Application essay, but yes, she finally found her voice. In fact, this dress rehearsal was pretty close to being ready for opening night.

So, parents, stop the pleading, bribing, or screaming. Visit your local store and get some tools to inspire creativity… you never know what will happen with a good old legal pad and fresh set of colorful pens, and a handy dandy timer!

Ready… set… go!

Let’s get started