I was an extremely good student, which in many ways is terrible for writing. I spent my entire time in grade school, and then high school, and college, learning how to read and analyze great writing, and, worse, learning how to follow rules– rules of punctuation, structure and rhetoric. Not surprisingly, my love of writing, which was strong in childhood, gradually faded away. Some time after college I read Silences, by Tillie Olsen, which is about all the ways that we (especially women, people of color and people without resources) lose our voices. I was working as a secretary at the time, and I would sit in the stairwell during my lunch hour reading Silences and crying. It had never occurred to me that writers are made, not born, or that anybody with the dream of writing had a right to pursue it. Having had that revelation, I started writing and was almost immediately paralyzed. My years of study had left me adept at identifying bad writing, intimidated by good writing and completely without strategies for invention. Many writers– writers with better imagination or more courage– develop habits of play instinctively. I had to start from scratch, teaching myself to brainstorm, to build and rebuild stories, to fail and to dream. Cultivating those habits has been time-consuming and often frustrating. Which begs the question– why do we go to school? How could I have spent so much time there and learned so little?