“100 words. No more, no less.” Mrs. Huff said. She glanced up at the clock and as soon as the red second hand made it to the 12, she wagged a finger at the entire class. “Go!”
Keith picked up his pen and looked down at his blank paper. He could write about anything he wanted. It could be a creative writing story; it could have been a journal entry. It could have been a flow of random thoughts. The only catch was that Keith had to write it in 100 words exactly.
He looked around his classroom and noticed every single one of his classmates was jotting something down. How was it that they all had ideas on what to write about? He looked back up at the clock. A minute had already passed by. Mrs. Huff was only giving them ten minutes total. Ten minutes to write a story, count the words, and then add or delete a few words to make it equal to 100.
Keith looked back at Mrs. Huff, who was sitting at her desk with her head down. She was writing something as well. He just couldn’t tell if she was doing the exercise along with the class or if she was grading papers.
After letting out a quiet sigh, he glanced back down at his paper. He could see from the corner of his eye that the kid next to him was already counting the words they had written down. Keith put down his pen, cracked his knuckles, and then picked his pen up again. He put the tip to the top of his page and let it glide along the thin surface.
They weren’t words, they were doodles. He made flowers, big circles, and small circles. There were swirly lines and way lines and some lines that went straight through some of his other designs.
Before he knew it, the entire page was filled with various doodles. He held up his paper and smiled, satisfied with his art.
“Pens down!” Mrs. Huff announced.
All at once, every kid stopped writing. Keith’s eyes grew wide as he looked around the class. Every single paper had a small paragraph on it, sentences and whole paragraphs scratched out, with new words written underneath. What did he have? Doodles.
For those ten minutes, he had completely forgotten where he was.
“Keith,” Mrs. Huff said with a smirk. “You look like a deer in the headlights. Would you like to go first?”
Keith swallowed a lump in his throat. Mrs. Huff had a good sense of humor. If he had told her no, she would have been fine with that. Still, he couldn’t very well write something while his classmates read their flash stories. His professor would surely see him writing and since this was her version of a pop quiz, he couldn’t afford to look like he was cheating.
So, he got out of his seat. He took his paper with him, noticing a few of the kids next to his desk stare at him oddly. Surely they noticed his paper was filled with doodles and not words.
When he made it to the front of the class, he put his paper in front of his face. “Uh…” he stammered before clearing his throat and then began.
“There was a flower,” he said staring at his picture. “It was a small flower, but the most beautiful flower. It’s vines twisted this way and that, swirling about making pretty patterns.” He stared at the small flower in the corner of his paper and spoke as his eyes followed the various twist and turns of the lines he created.
Then he looked at the dots; some big, some small. Some had straight lines emanating from them shooting off the page. “Rays of sunlight, uh, engulfed the vines in warmth. The vines grew and grew. Before long, the vines were the best aspect of the flower. Each day, she created new designs with her vines. People walking by her garden stared in awe taking pictures. She was certainly in her happy place.”
Keith brought the paper down and quickly folded it so no one would be able to see what was actually on the paper. His classmates stared at him with confusion. He sheepishly turned to look at Mrs. Huff, who had a smile on her face.
“I’m pretty sure that was more than 100 words.” She said.
Keith shrugged a little not knowing what else to say.
“Still, I can’t fail you for that one. You get an A. Go have a seat. Who wants to go next?” she looked at the rest of the class.
“Wait, what?” Keith spoke still standing in front of the room. He was in no position to argue a good grade, especially when he didn’t follow the directions at all.
Mrs. Huff chuckled at his confusion. “You didn’t follow the directions, but you were creative in a different way. Maybe your mind doesn’t work well
with time limits or word restraints. You drew a picture and created a story from that. You even personified the flower giving more life to an already living thing.” She winked at him.
“Wait a minute,” a kid raised their hand, “So we could have done whatever we wanted?”
Mrs. Huff shrugged. “You can’t grade creativity, guys.”