I ran into a teacher once who thought he’d met me before—but it took him a minute to remember who I was.

“Oh,” he eventually recalled, “You’re that guy that makes us write.” I’m not sure if he was glad to see me.

It’s pretty special for me to be remembered as “that guy who makes us write.” I give a lot of presentations. And I find that during those presentations, I’m often asking everyone to sit still, grab a pen or their keyboard, and write. It throws plenty of folks, at first.

We…are well trained to begin any significant meeting, event, and sometimes meal, with a few minutes of silent writing together.

This is, of course, a habit in the National Writing Project. We teacher-consultants and friends of the NWP are well trained to begin any significant meeting, event, and sometimes meal, with a few minutes of silent writing together. It prepares us, unpacks our baggage, and helps us to focus in on what we’re about to do together. That’s a good thing. A powerful thing. An essential thing.

But it’s far from habitual in most of the places I give presentations. And I can feel the energy of any room I’m presenting in shift when I say, “Now, let’s take a few minutes to write together.” Of course, then I, as a teacher of writing who can only be a good one if I write myself, begin to write along with them, sometimes with a look on my face that says, “Yeah. I’m really serious about this.”

I can sense in the room’s nervous/confused/puzzled energy shift something like, “But we’ve only a short time together, Bud. Is this really how we should spend it?” or “It’s been a long time since I’ve sat quietly in a room with other folks and written anything.”

Once we’ve gotten quiet, I can tell the folks who take the risk and write a bit from the others who, not wanting to rock the boat, sit quietly and fiddle with a pen or their email. Because those folks who write? They leave the room a little bit changed.

That’s why we write, right? To make change?

I get the awkwardness and the reluctance to write at all, much less sit quietly and write together. Writing itself, facing the blank page and listening to the voice (or voices) in your head that may just tell you what’s going on in there, is a pretty big risk.

Our thoughts, sometimes, are scary and hard to face. But of course that’s what writing is—scary, and hard, and well worth the time.

Writing, of course, is the creation of something from nothing, or at least from the feeling of nothing. And there’s power and magic and an awful lot of frustration along the way for any of us. Certainly me. I want to quit every time I put pen to paper or fingers to keys.

But I am frequently reminded that writing project teachers are certainly up to the task. Following the example of our NWP forefolks, we realize that there’s no text we can’t write, or challenge we can’t tackle. There’s certainly nothing we can’t move in a forward and better direction. Maybe not very far. Perhaps not all the way. But we can move things forward. Because we can face a blank page and make the words come out. We can start with nothing and make something of it. Heck, we can even take those first words that emerge and fiddle with them until they make something better. And we can show and encourage and model and struggle to help our students to do that, too.

And then we can all share what we made. Boy. That’s always really something.

So I like to make the room write with me when I’m in a workshop or giving a speech. I like to bring the awkward nervousness of being alone together, if only for a little while. I want the professionals I work with who build learning experiences to remember and feel and experience just how powerful a few short moments of silence and scribbling can be. And then I want them to build in space and time and permission in the work they do to make sure that more of those moments happen.

I like it when we write together. And I know that you do, too.

Thank you, friends and colleagues at and of the National Writing Project. My NWP over and over again shares with me the gift of the simple power of sitting still and quietly making things together. As the world moves faster and the stakes seem ever higher, this gift is truly one that keeps on giving. And one I can’t help but try to give to others. Here’s to another forty years of making writing happen.

Bud HuntBud Hunt is a teacher of writing who happens to be an instructional technology coordinator in northern Colorado. He is a proud inaugural teacher-consultant with the Colorado State University Writing Project. He writes online (most often) at budtheteacher.com.