I Apologize for the Rant

Note: This is just something I started writing in a blank Word doc with no intention to post. Then I thought…hmm…perhaps maybe one other person in our Approaches to Teaching Writing class has a similar struggle? Here’s to hoping. I’m baring my soul on this one, so be gentle. 🙂 And as the title says…I apologize for the rant.

Sometimes I wonder how to write. I know how to physically write, of course. I learned that long ago and have since used it countless times throughout my life and through various circumstances. But sometimes I desperately wish I could write for fun. Not just to rant, not just to share my opinion, but to write fiction or poetry. I’ve enjoyed (immensely) writing memoirs and personal essays. I think I’m at least a little skilled in it. But I feel a loss, a sense of something missing in my own writing abilities. I can’t recall ever being encouraged to write a story, at least not past elementary school. And poetry? I don’t even recall writing formula poems in school. I have a poor memory, so I suppose it’s possible that we did at some point (note to former classmates: if we did do this, please remind me so I can feel a little better about our K-12 education!). But sometimes I get really depressed about it, especially being surrounded by writers of all kinds, whether my classmates, my professors, or even the seventh graders in my practicum classes. I joke that my imagination died a long time ago. But it’s not a joke. I know you have to write to learn to write better. But I feel like I’m too old to learn now. It makes me want to call up every language arts teacher I ever had and cry out to them, “Why?! Why didn’t you let us write for ourselves, for fun, for exploration?!” It feels as though something is missing. And it’s been missing for so long, I am completely discouraged from trying to begin. I can write literary essays with the best of them. (Okay, not the best, but I can definitely whip one out of thin air with appropriate evidence and support when the situation is called for.) Even writing this right now, I feel the tears welling up behind my eyes like an inevitable tide. I am grieving. I am grieving for the loss of what could have been. Sure, I probably would never have been a J.K. Rowling or a Dean Koontz, but shouldn’t I have been encouraged to try? To play with language? To learn to write something other than a five-paragraph essay, a persuasive opinion research paper, a book report? I didn’t learn personal essay until college, and even that was daunting. But I came to love it. Fiction? Poetry? Forget it. The short story and poetry writing classes at Central were probably full of students who had enjoyed writing on their own for years and took the classes to brush up on their skills. Of course, I’ll never know since I avoided those classes like the plague. I never get the urge to crumple one of my personal essays or literary papers. Sure, I might toil over a paragraph for an hour only to delete it and start fresh, and I certainly revise and rewrite (particularly when I’m writing memoir or personal essays), but I’ve never been so in doubt that I’ve wanted to erase an entire work-in-progress. But fiction? I tried NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for those of you out of the loop) in my senior year of college because one of my friends/sorority sisters was doing it. She helped me think up a plot line; it never went anywhere. Why? Fear. An even bigger fear of mine is that this will follow me to my classroom like a big creepy poltergeist, like the mischievous Peeves from Hogwarts. If I can’t get myself to even attempt fiction or poetry, how the heck am I supposed to encourage my students to do so?

Questions: What kind of writing do you do for yourself, or do you at all? What, in anything, do you “fear” about writing? Any suggestions for me, either on how I can personally write or how to approach teaching this in my own classroom when I’m so discouraged about it myself?

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3 responses to “I Apologize for the Rant

  1. Wow, Randi. That’s a lot to think about. I, quite fortunately, did have a lot of creative writing experience in K-12. I was both home-schooled and publicly educated for almost equal parts of time and received creative writing freedom in both. Even in high school we were required to write sonnets and creative nonfiction pieces. I’m so sorry to hear that you weren’t given the opportunity to explore all of your creative writing potential early on… but there is hope! You are NEVER too young to start writing in a creative capacity. I write all the time for myself. I write short things, usually fiction, sometimes poetry or nonfiction, but always things that interest me, that intrigue me. Sometimes I’ll tackle writing a novel, but I usually get 50 or 60 pages in and call it quits. But I never stop writing for myself. I guess my advice to you would be just write. Start a journal. Keep a personal blog. Write some short stories. Jot down your memories. Write whatever comes to you. Also, later in this class we’ll be reading King’s On Writing. This is a fantastic book that will have a lot of answers for you as well as encouragement. Just don’t give up!!!

  2. Hi Randi,
    Like Michael I would urge you not to despair at a lack of early opportunity to write stories. It is encouraging to remember that the education that many of the great writers we read had (i.e. Grammar School) was probably even more lacking in opportunities for creativity. Nevertheless, over time they developed their ability to create and ended up producing imaginative masterpieces much later in their life than you are. Realizing that writing is not only a process, but one that it takes time to develop will hopefully encourage you and your teaching of students as it has me.
    As for myself, I try to do a mixture of stuff – poetry, fiction, a journal, theology, letters. My great barrier in fiction has always been a lack of persistence coming out of how easily I get distracted. For several years I solved this by only outlining stories because it allowed me to get out my ideas quickly before I got distracted and started on another story line. But it also kept me from ever actually bringing anything to completion, so just this year I’ve been striving to stick to one story. Dedicating myself to the task even when I have been tempted to distraction or didn’t want to out of a knowledge that in the end it would bring joy has been helpful. Maybe likewise for you just forcing yourself to ignore the fear and write will help? I hope so. Thanks for your honesty! Don’t be too discouraged, I’ve been impressed by what writing of yours I have seen.
    kevin

  3. Randi,
    Well, you may recall form the memoir I shared that I too have this promblem of not writing “enough,” and that my particular lack of wirting is based firmly in capital “F” Fear. For many years, I chalked this up to the idea that I was simply not “creative.” I compared it to drawing or painting: if given something to look at, I could produce a fair likeness, a good rendering; but if told to come up with something out of thin air, it was all stick figures and doodles. My grown-up life has taught me that I actually AM creative — how else could I run this complicated life I’m living? 🙂 I suspect you too already have all you need to write, except the confidence to try and the courage to fail — no small matters, for sure. But, do it anyway. Give yourself a big “who cares?” and move past the fear. Seems to me, you may have already done that already… 🙂

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