What is the secret of youth?
The secret of youth is the subtext of many commercials, crappy diet plans, and plastic surgeries– none of which I recommend pursuing. (But you know what I will recommend? Writing!).
The secret of youth is also something we discover when we get space from our fossilized concepts of how things are. Teenagers have the hard and sometimes gratifying job of shaking us more grown people out of our comfy delusions. But little kids can do that too, just by being themselves, engaging with the world at face value.
My 2 year-old daughter doesn’t get annoyed when she spills her bag of pebbles– she loves the sound of them falling, and one by one puts them back, without being “unpatient” about it (as my 5 year old called me). She hasn’t learned that when you drop something, it’s frustrating, and so the next thing you drop should be an F-bomb (in the privacy of your home, of course). Her secret of youth is, at least today, not having expectations to manage. Watching my children live is always an invitation to see things differently.
Instructions and Writing Prompt:
One of my favorite things to do is to come up with writing prompts for my students. Once your eyes are open, prompts are everywhere, like dust bunnies or braces. This poem from Micah Daniels arrived in my inbox as I was planning my morning classes. Her title, “The Secret of Youth,” gave me all I needed. And then the poem gave me the rest. So now I’m going to give it to you, in exchange for your writing the secret of youth.
Read Micah Daniel’s poem, and her context for writing it, even if you’re pretty sure you’re “not into poetry” (that’s like ‘not being into oxygen.’)
Then, write your own “secret of youth.” It can be in poem form, it can be in letter form, it can be in good old paragraph form.
My student’s secret of youth:
One of my 12 year old students wrote this poem in 3 minutes. Notice the gaps and broken places. Notice how her mom sustains her.
My mother could always see the look in my eyes when I didn’t want to speak.She would see it at the doctor, at parent teacher conferences, and especially at family reunions.She would always fill in the place where my voice was supposed to be with hers.My secret of youth.I can’t imagine a world where I have to fill in an empty void of silence with my voice, and without my mother’s.
- What does her mother’s voice say?
- Does her mother always get it right?
- Is there ever a time she wants her mother AN she wants the silence?
- What is their physical proximity?
- How does it feel to speak when her mother is not there?
There are many secrets each of us carry. I believe that we sometimes need to come at things sideways. A really good writing prompt can pull out our deep beliefs, values, and experiences, indirectly, just by beckoning to something real inside us.
The secret of writing your college essay
Well, there is no real secret (really! Don’t fall for it!). There is just your willingness to go there.
Good writing leads to more questions, then answers the one that matters, or that that space allows for.
If you set a timer for 3-5 minutes, and freewrite to the prompt without self-judgment or censorship, something magic can happen.
Why not try starting a college essay by writing about the secret of youth? If what you write doesn’t make the grade as a college essay, it could still enjoy great commercial success.
The common app prompts include a generous invitation to write on any topic at all. So find that thing you want to say. Let the admissions readers, and the rest of us– or at least your commercial audience– in on the secret of who you are.
I’ll be over here picking up pebbles, until you contact us for fast feedback on your draft.
My 2 year-old also has excellent critical feedback for you like, “Xyaionaktleanteuajkjkara222,” Or maybe that’s her legit secret of youth.
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