I actually know a thing or two about writing. You may not know it by the writing you read here though. This blog is meant to be happy fun writing. A pure form of self-expression. And a lot of fragmented sentences.
This blog is my way of rebelling against all those years of education and being taught how to write a sentence and a paragraph. I knew all the rules of grammar and punctuation. I spelled every word correctly. I knew my adverbs from my adjectives and I never really enjoyed any of it.
When I was in school, there was no room for flexibility. Anytime I made the slightest attempt to add style to my writing, I had points deducted. I knew I was writing fragments from time to time but they were for emphasis. Wasn’t I allowed to do that? I always read Readers Digest (because it was literally the only publication we had at our house, except for the TV Guide). I read articles and humorous stories and excerpts from novels. I wanted to write that way.
In hindsight, I understand that an English teacher’s job is to make sure that you know how to write. That you know how to construct grammatically correct sentences and can deliver clear, cohesive thoughts in a well-written paper. And I kind of assumed things were being taught more or less the same way I had learned them way back when. Turns out I’m wrong.
My mom is raising a 14 year old boy. A middle schooler. He’s been in our family for 9 years. I still don’t know what to call him. He’s like a nephew but really a little brother, even though I don’t see him or talk to him often. I did get to spend time with him last week when I spent hours and hours driving hours Maryland figuring out only where I don’t want to live.
We all got together at my mom’s one night for a nice family cookout and he was working on his English homework. He’s in what they call G&T English (gifted and talented). I’m sure he’s not happy about that because he really doesn’t enjoy English. And I don’t blame him.
It started with a innocent enough discussion. He was reading a boring Charles Dickens novel and working on answering some analysis questions. I joked with him that that’s what Cliff Notes are for.
He looked at me and said, “Oh, we’re not allowed to use Cliff Notes.”
I replied, “Well, nobody is actually allowed to use Cliff Notes but everybody does. It’s the only way I was able to write my paper about ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ in 12th grade!”
Then, somehow, we ended up getting into a discussion about what his teacher does and doesn’t require when writing a paper and I was blown away. Seriously, and not in a good way.
Listen to some of these rules and tell me how this has happened in the last 20 years.
- No sentences can start with A, An, The
- No sentences can start with the same word twice
- No forms of To Be allowed (are, is, was, has, be, been, being)
- No use of Kill words (so, very, a lot, nice, really, interesting, basically)
- Must use only action verbs
There was more, too. I actually was so appalled that I had to take a picture of the framework his teacher used to grade his last paper.
Yeah, I know. I couldn’t really read it after the fact either. But what got me after hearing all these excruciating rules was the reminder of why I hated writing so much for the first few decades of my life.
It was because most of the writing that I did was in a structured, analytical format. Even as I moved into a professional life and entered a more creative field like marketing, I found that I was sticking to a formula and it was dull, boring, and dry.
I started this blog to showcase a more creative side of my writing for future job applications. Little did I know that I would discover that I loved to write.
I was talking to a blogging friend of mine the other day and she told me how she had always loved to write and that helped her pick her college major and career path. It made me think about all the writing I had done as a kind. I wrote and performed a song for my graduating elementary school class. I wrote and performed in a play for my entire 6th grade class. I entered every speech contest there was and won.
Somewhere along the way, writing became a chore and not a form of communication. I’m glad to have rediscovered how much fun it can be but I have fears about what we’re teaching our kids.
Have I just forgotten what it’s like to have to learn how to write or does this seem a little crazy to you? Or do I just seem a little crazy to you?