Make Something: Finish Someone’s Work

“Have someone else start something and then complete it yourself today.”

I gave my 11-year-old daughter broad instructions: “Start something that has to do with words.”

I expected she would write the first few lines of a poem.

She asked for a pencil and blank paper. I passed her a yellow #2 and a sheet of green paper from my recycled pile. She set to work on the opposite side of my desk, while I answered email and prepped for tonight’s business writing class.

I glanced over and saw her drawing pictures.

“Remember, the theme is ‘words,'” I told her.

“I know,” she said. “I got this.”

Turns out she was making a visual list.


Hannah started the list with a few basic essentials:

  • eraser – because I make a lot of mistakes and frequently change my mind
  • pencil – the sharper the better
  • sharpener – the electric one I’m hoarding in my office now, even though it used to live in the kitchen
  • pen – her illustration makes me seem romantically old school; in truth, I use a black UniBall
  • mug – ideally the big, heavy one that lists the “Rules for Writing”
  • tea – black and caffeinated in the morning, weaker and decaffeinated in the afternoon
  • even a dancing flower – inspired by the solar-powered plants on my window sill, because I cannot keep real plants alive

I added:

  • iDevices – Mac, iPad, and iPhone, all of which come into play at some point in each writing day
  • dark chocolate – generally consumed around 1:30 pm
  • candle – burning only when I can trust myself to remember to blow it out (so not very often)
  • blank paper – ideally not ruled, because lines suggest orderly, linear thoughts, and that’s just not how I compose
  • clock/timer – because a five-minute time limit is usually all it takes to inspire an adequate first draft
  • cat – probably sprawling across useful resource materials or walking across my keyboard

And really, that’s pretty much all I need.

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