Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A quick essay

If you are reading this, then chances are that you know me and you know how I have struggled with my writing in the past. Not struggled so much with the actual writing as much as believing that I can. I typed up a quick essay today along the lines of my "Writing Autobiography" for an insignificant class assignment and thought I'd share it here since I have produced a serious lack of posts in recent years. Enjoy.

Writing has always been a subject of insecurity for me. For years I walked around believing that I could not write well at all. This probably stemmed from me being somewhat of a perfectionist, which has never blended well with the subjective nature of writing. It is impossible for me to cover all of the events and happenstances that brought me to being the writer I am today in the confines of a 2 page, double-spaced paper. As such, I will try to focus on the highlights of my history with writing.

Elementary and middle school found me hardly thinking about my writing at all, that I can remember. I did not write much outside of school, and the writing assignments I was given were much like math equations: I simply filled in the blanks the teacher provided with a few adjectives of my choosing. I was good at regurgitating what my teachers gave me and wanted to hear. I was praised for being a fine writer, and I felt that my abilities were more than sufficient for the tasks given me.

Unfortunately, my anxiety manifested itself strongly in high school. Mr. Stan Banks, my sophomore English teacher, told me more than once that my writing was “superficial.” My essays never delighted him as my work had for previous teachers. That was crushing! However, the pinnacle of my self-doubt came during my senior year in Mr. Dave Davis's AP Literature class. For a poet essay assignment, my essay began:

“Towards the beginning of Jim Henson's The Muppet’s Christmas Carol, Rizzo the Rat exclaims to Gonzo, 'Charles Dickens was a nineteenth century novelist! A genius!' William Butler Yeats, though not a novelist, was another late-nineteenth century genius. Better known for his poetry, Yeats often wrote about the nature he associated with in Ireland.”

I thought this portion of the introduction to be original and humorous. I had discussed with him beforehand the importance of not just writing what is expected but being creative with it and making it your own. I thought he would be delighted to read something a little different in his stack of papers that would virtually all say the same thing. How wrong I was! After some snooping around, I discovered that I had received the lowest grade on that assignment of all the students from his three AP Lit classes (including one who had lost a significant amount of points for no other reason than turning the essay in late). Apparently, Mr. Davis did not think I could write. His opinion meant a lot to me for some reason, so I took that belief to heart.

Mr. Davis's grading and comments had hurt me deeply, causing even greater anxiety and stress in the face of writing than I had had before. Thankfully, however, I had friends and mentors that worked with my self-cynicism to try and help me see that there were admirable qualities to my writing. Blogging was a popular activity amongst us at the time, and they encouraged me to keep a blog going. Though I believed that I was not a good writer, I liked to blog. With every post, I was boosted with compliments. From their enjoyment, I began to see that my writing strengths resided in my voice, clear organization, and simple clarity.

In college, virtually all of my professors who have read my writing have made it clear to me that they see those strengths as well. They have also helped me to work on my weaknesses, such as beefing up “superficial” passages. I have tried to take their opinions and criticisms to heart rather than those of Mr. Davis and Mr. Banks. No writer is perfect, but I believe that everyone can improve. The perfectionist in me will never be content with not having a perfect paper, and will continue to feel a bit insecure with any writing I produce. However, I am grateful for the mistakes and turns I made in the past and for the supporters that helped me to improve and be the writer I am today.


Nedge said...

Thank you. I loved it.

The more English classes I take, the more I realize that writing is a personal art. Some people won't like the way you write, and that's okay. Just be open-minded, and decide for yourself what you think. :)

For example, one particular creative writing class, all my work got torn apart. Except for the "dark" poems. Those were praised to the skies.


Joslynn said...

I told you, Miss Rhetoric Associate.

I told you what a good writer you are, and I'm so glad I was right.