A writing prompt that I like to use with my students as an icebreaker for our comic-book themed class is to ask them two simple questions: What is your superpower (what specific attribute makes you the awesome person you are) and what is your kryptonite (what is holding you back from living up to the fullness of that potential)? We have also used it as a writing prompt for teachers at Morehead Writing Project events (see What is Your Superpower and Kryptonite). The prompt works especially well when paired with the video Kid President’s Guide To Being Awesome.
This is such an useful prompt because you view it through both personal and professional lenses. Personally, while I like it a lot as an icebreaker because you can learn a lot from a response to these questions, I think it is a great touchstone prompt. It could actually be a great bookend prompt to use both at the beginning and the end of a class or project or workshop whether assigned by the teacher or used by the writer to reflect on personal or professional growth.
I’ve been thinking a lot about where I am going professionally lately which may be why I chose to think about this prompt as I was scrolling through my list of prompts for a workshop. What is my superpower? My superpower is simply that I believe. I believe in the power of writing to change the world. I believe in the power of writing teachers to make writers. I believe in the power of writers to transform – no, transfigure – into something new, something more by learning to wield their pens (or crayons or keyboards) to shape our world into something new and better while uncovering truths about our past and present.
I believe everyone can be a writer. More than that, I believe everyone should be a writer. I believe writing holds the power to help us uncover thorny truths and work through Gordian knots. Writing can help us reach out to others when our tongues falter. Writing can invite laughter and call tears. Writing can ask questions that need to be asked and demand answers that must be given. Writing can heal. Writing can invent. Writing can celebrate. Words hold tremendous power. As I wrote in a poem last year, “Working with words is dangerous, language is combustible and corrosive – incendiary.” We all have the power to use words to set small smoldering fires and huge waving blasts of heat and destruction.
My kryptonite is those who do not believe. I can lift up the writers who do not believe in their own powers, but too often their newly-fledged wings are broken by the buffeting gales outside our sheltered valley. I can uplift teachers and show them how to be guides, coaches, and cheerleaders for the writers in their charge, but some red-pen wielding warriors are too heavily guarded or wear impenetrable armor. No matter what weapons I choose, I despair of reaching their hearts. These are my kryptonite. As I wrote in a blog post last year, “I see far too many people, some of them in charge of teaching writing and shaping how writing is taught, who do not believe that everyone can be a writer. They hold tight to a belief that writing is not a skill but rather a talent or innate ability. They parcel out tips and tools and strategies to their students, but they do not help their students grow as writers.”
I believe everyone can be a writer. I believe everyone should be a writer. We should be doing everything we can to unleash more voices upon the world. Every voice that is stilled is a tremendous loss. Will you join my crusade? Unleash your writer and celebrate the voice of others. Be a believer and help others find their voice.