Sunday, October 14, 2007

Public School BS

When I was very young and in elementary school, I wanted to be a writer but thought I couldn't ever possibly be one. The reason for this? I believed I lacked the proper and required temperament.

You see... public schools have this thing called the 'Writing Process'. All through elementary, middle, and parts of high school, teachers guide you through 'brainstorming', 'drafting', 'editing', and 'publishing'.

As a child, I absolutely HATED brainstorming and drafting. I had an idea and I was raring to go! I didn't want to sketch silly ideas in web-format on a piece of paper! I took to just writing my story or essay and then making fake brainstorms and drafts based on the final product.

I thought this was what being a writer was all about, and, thusly, could not ever hope to be one because the 'process' seemed so ridiculous to me.

It took me a while to figure out that I was gifted with what many of the other students for whom this 'process' was invented were not: a destiny.

I hate to get all arrogant and mystical (woo woo wa-oo) about it, but I understood at that young age (though I lacked the words to describe it or the experience to be credible) that truly great writing begins with a vibrant spark of an idea, a special feeling likened to madness that takes a writer and dictates through him. Creating word webs just did not fit into what I felt whole-heartedly to be true.

Many esteemed and brilliant writers (Ray Bradbury, Thomas Harris, Chuck Palahniuk, Stephen King, JK Rowling, Chris Crutcher, Toni Morrison, James Thurber, etc.), I was relieved and ecstatic to find, feel the same way I do. To hear them speak of the 'writing process', they are pulled along, as if on a path in a misty wood, able to see only a few feet in front of them.

Ray Bradbury described himself as a person with a notepad and pencil, running after his characters and jotting down what they do.

The moral of this exercise is this: If I had followed the 'rules' about my art, I would have been unhappy, frustrated, confused, and my writing would have suffered.

I am here to tell you not to listen to your teachers or your government or any 'experts' that tell you to believe something that doesn't sound right to you.

ART HAS NO RULES!!!!!! You can do it however you want, in whatever way makes you happy and works for you best.

I will always resent my early education for making me feel so unhappy about what I was meant to do with my life, but at least it taught me the valuable lesson learned above.

All that idealistic stuff about no boundaries or limits is true. Follow your dreams, people.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's Chuck Palahniuk, not Chris.

But I completely agree about the elementary school BS. The truth is that they're trying to prepare the average person for the next ten years of research paper writing, not a lifetime of art. Very large difference there, I'm afraid.