I have this writing course in which students read for 90 minutes and use 30 minutes to write their reflections on what they read. I don't care what they write, as long as they write.
During the writing session, the students, especially Mark*, would ask me how to spell certain words. One time he didn't ask me any spelling questions; he just buried himself in the desk and I could see his pen running fast on the paper – the pen virtually led him. Suddenly, Mark rose from his seat, charged toward me, and shot out his hand giving me his writing, his face pumping red. “That was fast,” I said to him. It was not just fast; it was a lot. Normally, it takes a student about 30 minutes to come up with a half-page; there Mark gave me two full pages in 20 minutes.
Mark wrote about his recent breakup with his childhood sweetheart – so recent that it happened only a few hours earlier. He went to her school to pick her up but there she suggested splitting up, saying things like “you are too good for me” and “It’s nobody's fault,” the kind of lines we are all too familiar with from third-rate TV soap operas. Helpless and powerless, he didn't know how to react. Mark went home, lay down, and tried to understand the situation. It wasn't easy. He rose and started to dial, but the phone was not answered. He continued to dial and dial and dial…until the girl's phone was out of power from the constant ringing. Mark rushed out of his place heading straight to her campus to look for her, but she was not in the library; she was not in the gym; she was not in the restaurant; she was not in the dorm. Mark kept running, sweat mixing with tears. It was hell.
He concluded his writing with a climax – he finally spotted her riding on another guy's motorbike, holding onto him tightly. “It was a strange feeling,” Mark wrote.
Grammatical mistakes aside, Mark's writing was, mama, at full throttle. Every word was jumping and charged with high voltage. There was so much energy in it that there was no escaping it. Reading it was like reading Apple Daily. Actually, it was better than 10 Apple Daily articles combined. I told Mark that the writing was very good. He looked at me, spacing out, unaware that he had just done a good work.
Mark didn't come to the class in the following week. One month later, he showed up with a smile and said hello to other students. It seemed he was back to his normal self. He told me that he just had a 3-week vacation in Hawaii. I asked him: “Is everything okay now?” “Everything is fine,” said Mark, his face beaming.
*Mark is not his real name.