questions and answers and story-telling

In teaching, telling a story that asks a question, and doesn’t answer it, is good. And I’ve taken for granted that so is writing and story-telling. But it occurred to me to think that perhaps, sometimes, we struggle with stories that are responding to a question. I’ve thought–without really considering–that this can be a terrific way to begin the writing process: ponder a question you want answered, explore the answer. But what happens when we’re working with only the question as we write?

Sometimes, I’m writing and my story comes to an end long before I thought it would. And when that happens, I realize that I’m writing in response to a question, and not writing the question. The responding kills it.

Recently, I made an observation of homeschooled kids on a field trip. There was quite a group, mostly ages 9-12, at Fort Langley. (amazing docent, I must add, as an aside…because I’m partial to asides…) A number of these kids have never been in a classroom; some have; some know each other, and have for years; others–like my son–know a few faces from swimming classes, but that’s all. There was a point in the exploring of the Fort that it was necessary to line up to proceed through a doorway and on to the next building. Without talking about it, the kids lined up, single file, and crossed through and over. No big deal. Not for most people observing, perhaps. But for me, it staggered me, and my little world of elementary education.

I couldn’t help but think of the school classes I’ve been involved with these past two years, and the energies expended, the configurations, the reminders. And still, once the line is past the door, the single becomes double and treble across the hall, and oh the leaping to touch the overhead doorjamb, and the surreptitious poke at hallway artwork.

Right. I’m not going to respond to my question here. I’m going to think about it. Maybe at some point write about it. But there’s the question.