Uintah School District, in Utah, takes food from kids.

So, this article from Gawker hit me via Facebook a while ago, a few minutes ago.  I don’t really get it.  Apparently a school in Utah gave kids their lunches, realized their parents were late on paying their nutrition bills, so took the food and threw it out.  First point of fact:  Didn’t the parents lay out the initial seed money via taxes, in the first place?  I’m willing to bet their taxes have gone up at some point, no?  So it’s not like someone hasn’t already paid for all this stuff, at least once or twice through.  But, instead of maybe sending a note home with the kids that their parents had better send them in with cash or they won’t eat tomorrow, they just took perfectly good food from the children and threw it out? Thus leaving them less capable of learning, and wasting perfectly good food at the same time?

Was there anything resembling an education, here?  I’ve heard people frame this as a lesson in not being dependent on government, or maybe as a lesson on things government shouldn’t be doing?  I don’t get it.  To the latter, I’d say it’s a very rough lesson; to the former, I’d simply argue that this isn’t teaching independence from government, it’s teaching that people can be mean.  It’s bullying.

SLCsd Logo

Wait, it gets dumber.   This school took food from some kids, but they couldn’t give it to others (probably due to health laws) so they ditched it, right?   Well according to the Salt Lake City Tribune, those whose food was taken were given an apple and a milk.  That makes it alright, right?  No, but even more than that – these kids wounds up getting more food than they would have gotten in the first place!  Hey, this is elementary school!  Maybe they were trying to use apples to teach math?  I guess that explains their logo!

 

Seriously, I can’t even come up with a good focus keyword for my SEO optimization program, here, and I’m probably more than a little incoherent.  As a professional educator, or an educational professional – whichever – I’m pretty incensed by this.  It’s vaguely reminiscent of Jack Kingston (R-Ga) suggesting that poor kids could do extra chores or pay a little extra money for their lunch.  Maybe, instead, all kids could have to do some chores – and all kids could have access to a free basic meal.  At least that would be fair, and it would certainly teach all kids to respect the institution that is trying to help them.  After all, schools take the little ones from their parents’ care for eight-ish hours a day, and that’s certainly a better lesson than, “if mommy doesn’t pay the bills, I’ll blame her while starving you!”

Writing Dice To Help Writers Focus

Writers are addicted to writing, and that isn’t a bad thing. However, as any soap opera will tell you, one way or another, addictions inevitably spiral out of control. I can attest to this. My addiction to the written word is expressed by having far more ideas than I do time to focus on them! Whether it’s a novel series, a video series, article generation, or simply reading (damn you, Reddit) and discussing random nonsense on social networks (damn you, Facebook!) , I have a history of failing to focus on one goal at a time. All too often, I focus on no goals at a time! Intellectual paralysis by way of overwhelming abundance.

There are other symptoms of a writing addiction: Failing to edit one’s work or editing obsessively; refusing to practice basic techniques; failing to study the advice or art of others; or, what-have-you! All writers have flaws, and sometimes they have been ingrained into our creative rituals because they reflect the strengths we possess!

Last night, an idea hit me: Twelve-Step programs, as part of their overtly-religious guise, suggest giving yourself over to a “higher power” in order to combat your weakness before your drug-of-choice. If I can’t be trusted to control my creative impulses, maybe I can ensnare probability to help me be a more effective writer?

 

Writing Dice Can Be Nice!

Image courtesy of www.dungeonmasters.com

Image courtesy of www.dungeonmasters.com

First, select an implement of chaos, such as a coin, or a six-sided die; or four-sided, or ten-sided, or even the infamous D20!

Second, come up with a quick worksheet that tells you what you will do, based on whatever your result is. Perhaps, if you have a four-sided die on hand, you select #1 to be reading a book, #2 to be editing a finished story, #3 to be writing a new one, and #4 to be distributing query letters?

Third, you just roll the dice, flip the coin, or even click a button on a random number generating, dice simulating program! Away we go!

 

 Some Suggestions!

This is far from an alien idea, and presenting that alone would be almost pointless. Let’s up the ante!

You can maintain multiple sheets so that you can simply reach for one (perhaps at random, further handing your future over to a “higher power”), then roll your little heart out! You could use a four-sided die to select from four envelopes, each containing a further set of four options for a total of sixteen possible outcomes. This system lets you effectively select a project at random, followed by a particular aspect of it.  For a writing prompt, it can’t get much better!

You can express some control over your writing dice, adjusting the probability of landing any given assignment.  If you use a twenty-sided die, you may dedicate #1-#4 to promoting your latest novel, and may assign #5-#10 to editing. This gives you a 20% chance to spam social media (four possible results), but a 30% chance to spend the day editing something (six possible results), with the remaining 50% to be distributed. Divy them up however you’d like, and let fate be your guide!

Another option, if you’re looking for good practice at exploring different genres, is to assign a different writing prompt to each number.  Maybe your task will be to write a flash fiction of 1,000 words or less, and depending on the number you land, you’ll write a different style of story; #1 is science fiction, #2 is horror, and so-on!

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that, as it’s meant to combat our baser intellectual impulses, this technique works best when attempting to combat a bad habit. Maybe you just write new content, and never edit. Maybe you’re like me, and you get trapped in indecision about what to work on each day! As long as you’re actively combating a negative habit, leaving things up to your “higher power” is a wise choice. If, on the other hand, you’re already mixing things up a healthy amount? Do what you know is right!  Write!

Writing Dice

My prized six-sided die!

 

Jesse Pohlman is an author from Freeport, New York.  He’s written a number of books, all of which you can get information about here!