What is the Project?

Posted: October 16, 2008 in What is the project?

Inside this blog are the reactions to images that I posted on a whiteboard in a classroom in a psych hospital where I work. I teach creative writing to suicidal adolescents as a coping skill. On the back of each image (Most of the images I cutout of The New Yorker magazine.) are suggestions or writing exercises. I encourage them to own their stories. Most are very creative with much insight. They possess judgment. Sure, slightly skewed at times. It’s offbeat and quirky, but the stories always have depth.

They are veiled narratives about their inner thoughts and beliefs. Most of them have a strong desire to love and be loved, and for over an hour each morning, they write and discuss fiction with enthusiasm. It releases the creative imagination and calms them. It becomes a place where anything is possible, a place where they can be themselves—free of judgment, a place where they belong, where they can feel like part of a group, a place that reminds them that they are alive and things will get better.

So listening to their stories means that I must be willing to follow where they lead me. Sometimes they lead me to the Seven Wonders of the World, and tell me they would be a great candidate for the eighth wonder, if the world ever decided to add another one. Sometimes they lead me into the depths of their suffering—a father or mother has died, a father or mother is an addict, a father or mother is in prison. Sometimes they lead me into a world of abuse that happened between the ages of five and eleven. Sometimes they lead me to a noose, to a razor, to an overdose, and I refuse to go. I make them rewrite them, because there must be a step away from this abyss. Then there are times when they lead me into the wonderful mind of their imaginations, and I never want to leave. But it all begins with a willingness to go, to listen, to hear, to follow. May you follow as well.

I do not edit the stories or correct them in any way. They appear as the student typed them. Enjoy their imaginations!

—Robert Stofel, Teacher

(If you own the copyrights to these images, know that we do not sell these books. They are given to hospital employees and nursing students only, so please be nice to us. Your work is helping them through a crisis.)

  1. Kristopher says:

    Thanks for the offer, but we don’t really have a “class text” at the moment. Since this is the first class, Robert and I are keeping things fluid. Really, we’re just using some of the techniques Robert developed working with the adolescent patients at Decatur General West and a whole lot of winging it.

    Of course, if your niece lives in the Decatur area, we’d love to have her come to the “physical class.”

  2. tanya says:

    Hey – i would be interested in purchasing a set of the class text (if possible)…my niece likes to write/draw and would be good for her. I would donate a little extra to go to some pizza for the kids in the physical class – say depending on the class size – pizza night on me??. Let me know.