I’d been busy at my Capstone desk, trying to get my Fall ’16 projects out the door in that final mad rush of proofreads, route checks, and team updates. I’d been sweating the finite details of periods, commas, line breaks, word stacks, and CIP page data that editors everywhere have seen in their dreams whether they want to or not.
So I was looking forward, last Friday, to a scheduled day away from the office in which I’d teach creative writing lessons to the young leaders of tomorrow at Monroe Elementary in North Mankato.
Unfortunately for my first group of students, Mrs. Schemmel’s kindergarten, I brought the harried bearing I’d been exhibiting at work into their classroom. Forty-five minutes through the hour I’d been allotted to teach a creative writing lesson to the kindergartners of Monroe Elementary, I realized I’d over-planned—I’d given these five- and six-year-olds more than they could handle. I’d’ve needed at least another hour to help them finish the eight-page, handmade book I’d set out to help them create. I realized this when I saw Gordie staring at his hand, Mia studying her shirt, Thomas snapping his scissors near his ear so as to enjoy stereo-quality sound, and Gage gazing out the window.
Still, I blundered forth, trying to explain the finer points of storytelling in terms they could understand. I kept talking, kept explaining. I prattled on until I noticed little Brenna, her hair a happy fluff of red curls and barrettes, tugging at my pant leg. The blank look on her face let me know she’d clearly been doing this for longer than I’d realized.
I finally stopped talking.
Brenna looked surprised.
“Yes?” I said.
“Can you tie my shoe?”
I looked around the room. This didn’t seem to be an out-of-the-ordinary request. “Sure,” I said.
I bent down. Then I saw the shoe, the laces of which featured a knot of mythic proportions. Strings of seven or eight individual knots cockleburred into one gigantic knot. It was the kind of knot that would’ve taken ten minutes to begin to even wrap your head around.
I looked at Brenna. She raised her eyebrows.
There was no way I’d be getting that knot out anytime soon, so I looped a simple pair of rabbit ears at the end.
“There,” I said. I looked at Brenna, fearing she’d disapprove.
But my quickloop solution was good enough for Brenna. She smiled and said, “Thank you!” And then she got back to work.
That de-tangled it for me. That was the turning point in my day. From there on out, simpler would be better. Good enough would be good enough.
I put a quick bow on the lesson, and, with Mrs. Schemmel’s blessing, left the final steps of the project in her capable hands. The first graders were up next, and they were fantastic. The fourth graders? Downright poetic.
The day at Monroe gave me a good recalibration on the inner workings of the sorts of young people we make these books for here at Capstone. It re-minded me that some things take more time than you allot. And sometimes it’s okay to take a break and tie your shoe.