Get the Lead Out

When I was in eighth grade, the school held a writing contest for students to go to a local Young Writer’s Conference. The topic we had to write a story on was Get the Lead Out. I didn’t have any preconceptions of the phrase, so interpreted it how I wanted. Since writing my story, I’ve used the phrase to remind myself to just write. Here’s my story:

Get the Lead Out

My favorite teacher in Jr. High must have been Mr. Horace D. Wallington, my English teacher.  His favorite—and most often used—expression was “get the lead out”.  At first it was only another way to say get out your pencil and start writing.  At least that’s what it meant to me.  Now I can see that it means more than that.  Much, much, more . . .

“Mr. Wallington . . . Mr. Wallington!”

“Huh?” Mr. Wallington glanced up from the papers he was correcting and noticed Sarah standing beside his desk. “Is there anything I can help you with Sarah?”

“I’m having some trouble with that essay you asked us to write this morning.”

“You mean the one you’re supposed to write about your feelings on World War II.”

“Yea. That’s the one.”

“I’m surprised you even asked me about it. You’re usually so quiet in class that I never know whether you have any questions that need answering.”

“Well . . .”

“Why don’t you come in after school tomorrow and I’ll try to help you with it then.”

“Thanks a lot, Mr. Wallington.”

Sarah turned and headed towards the door.  As she was about to leave, Mr. Wallington called out “Write down everything you know about World War II and bring the paper in with you tomorrow.”

“Okay . . . Anything else?”

“No. That’s all.”

The next day Sarah was right on time.  As she went in, she saw that Mr. Wallington was alone in the classroom.  When he noticed that she had come in, he pulled one of the desks closer to his own.

He asked her to sit down and then sat down himself, perching on the edge of his desk. “Did you write the paper like I asked you to?”

“Yes, I have it right here.” Sarah handed him a small pile of papers.  He flipped through the papers then handed them back to her.

“I see that you have been listening in class.  What I don’t understand is if you know so much about World War II, then why are you having so much trouble writing your paper?”

“Well, I’m not exactly sure how to write it all out.”

“But you wrote it all down right here.”

“I know. It’s just that . . .”

“I think what you’re trying to say is that you’re not quite sure what your feelings are on the subject.”

“I guess you could put it that way.”

“Well, in this situation, my main advice is to just ‘get the lead out,’ as I would always say.”

“But what exactly do you mean when you say that?” Sarah asked earnestly.  “I always thought that it was a figure of speech to say get out your pencil and start working.”

“I suppose in a way it does mean that.  Yet it means more.  You know that lead compound could kill you. Don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“And if you get some in your system, then it’s best to get it out right away, correct?”

“Of course.  That’s the sensible thing to do.”

“Well, the lead is all that information stored up in you. It’s in there, somewhere, and you know you have to get it out.”

“So how am I to go about doing that?”

“ ‘Get the lead out.’ Get that pencil in your hands and just start writing. Let it go. Let it flow out of your system. Don’t force it; just let your hand do the talking. It will all come out, I promise.”

“It’s that easy?” the need for reassurance in her eyes.

Mr. Wallington smiled. “Why don’t you go home and find out for yourself.” He escorted her to the door and held it open for her. She started to walk down the hall, hesitated, and looked back.

“Thank you, Mr. Wallington. I’ll try my best to do as you said.”

“I expect to see that essay on my desk first thing in the morning.”

And it was. He was right. Once I just got down to it and let it all out, it was easy. Not only did I get an “A” on that paper, but my teacher entered it into a national contest, and it won. Here I am now, getting credit for it, but the award should go to him.

Thank you, Mr. Wallington, for the wonderful advice. And for explaining to me that simple phrase: “Get the Lead Out.”

Mary Butterfly Signature

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Make Visible: Story a Day

It’s almost May…

On the Story a Day website it boldly says: StoryADay.org is home to an annual Extreme Writing Challenge:

Write a story every day in May.

Still confused.  Want more info.  Here are “The Rules” from StoryADay.org.

The Rules

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ~Ray Bradbury

The Story A Day Challenge is a creativity challenge.

It came about when I (Julie) needed to prove to myself that I could still actually write stories — not just talk about writing, read about writing or even write about writing!

I needed bootcamp.

I declared May 2010 to be StoryADay May and set about telling the world (to keep myself honest).

As other writers started to hear about it, they clamored to sign up. They got excited. They challenged themselves. They challenged their friends. They wrote a lot. And some of them went on to do great things.

So here we are, declaring May 2012 to be:

The 3rd Annual Story A Day May

The rules:

  • Write (finish) a story every day in May.

The details:

  • Stories may be any length (50 words? 5,000?) but they must be stories (they must take us or the characters somewhere).
  • Stories may be fiction or non-fiction (but if you’re already blogging in non-fiction or keeping a journal, consider trying fiction)
  • You get to decide what “every day” means. If you need to take Sundays off, go for it. You make your own rules, but you are encouraged to set them up early, and stick to them!
  • Sign up as part of the community here. Get a username and join in the groups and comments. (sign-ups open soon. join the StoryADay Advance Notice List to be first in line)
  • You can post your story at your site, or in the forums here or you can simply post an update in the Victory Dance Group saying that you completed that day’s story.

The point:

  • To foster creativity
  • To come out with 31 first drafts, nuggets, chapterettes, ideas, and
  • To prove that you can craft a story. Lots of stories. To practice that craft

What Should You Do Next?

  • Get on the Advance Notice List to find out when sign-ups open (I only open it up sporadically, to combat spam sign-ups) PLEASE email me at editor at story a day dot org or contact me on twitter @StoryADayMay if you have questions. Really sorry for any inconvenience.
  • Take a look at the Inspiration and Productivity links on the Resources page.
  • When you have a username, Make some friends,, Join or create a group.
  • Most of all, gather your ideas between now and May 1. You’re going to need at least 31 of them.

This story a day business sounds intriguing and challenging!  If you are interested please go to the Story A Day website to find out more.

The Stories of Ray Bradbury

The Stories of Ray Bradbury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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