A throwback to the first time: Show and Tell
Little kids will bring anything to Show and Tell at school. The grimiest blanket. A rock from the park. A one-legged Barbie. A scratched up draft of your college essay. They hold it out with awe.
It’s theirs, and now everyone is looking at it. “Show and Tell!” the teacher cues. A very early lesson in attention and narrative technique.
The kid launches into an explanation of why this blanket, this rock, this draft– is awesome. Worthy of a classroom’s set of eyes.
Just bringing the chosen object to that circle makes it special.
The trick: the audience sees the object, experiences it with the Young Narrator.
Your college essay is not that different. You can pick the grimiest, most common, most scratched up topic– and you can make it special by how you handle it.
But we– your readers– have to see what’s going on. You need to SHOW us.
There are a few principles to follow, because like everything, it’s not THAT simple.
Prepare yourself to write.
First, have fuel, your apple juice and cookies. Actually, we recommend water with lemon and some protein.
And, if we’re being honest, maybe some caffeine.
Then, sit in a chair too small for your butt, so you won’t want to stay too long and so the world feels big and possible. (Skip this step if you don’t like feeling ridiculous).
Take out your writing instruments. Conjure the awe and importance kids feel when they hold out that rock, Show and Tell.
SHOW first, then Tell.
Bring your reader to a moment in your life when something small (be small on purpose) made a big difference.
Was it the team sweatshirt you picked to wear that fateful day?
Was it that unnecessarily snide parting comment you made to mom?
Was it a call you missed, a text you sent? Was it the kind of pen you had? Was it the last popsicle you ate?
Write a scene in which we see the object and the role it played in events.
Then, TELL us what the significance was.
Do this over and over and over, with as many little moments as you can think of.
If you feel yourself getting stale, have an animal cracker, or conjure again that pure joy of the sharing circle in Show and Tell.
Or use this writing exercise:
Go look for the oldest object from your childhood still in your house, and write about that.
Or look around and see the things you’ve saved, if any– why those? Do this exercise as many times as you’d like, until you feel the inner DING!
This will take forever! No, it won’t!
Show & Tell is one activity in a busy day.
Don’t be too precious– spend maybe 15 minutes on the whole exercise.
Close your eyes– spend 1 minute here.
See that circle, the carpet, the teacher all benign and kindergarten-ish. Each kid will have only a few minutes in the spotlight.
She’s looking at you. It’s your turn.
Stand up. Let us feel your rock, your t-shirt, your broken barbie– whatever you’re holding. Let us see its muted colors, its imaginary function.
It’s your turn.
And if you need more eyes on your work, you can get in touch with us.
(Nostalgic? Here’s a smart video about kindergarten kids bringing in objects made before they were born…like rotary phones…and how to make S&T not boring).