I was approached about this project and decided to give it a go…
I was never a big fan of school. I found it confusing, overwhelming, and at times, downright boring. I spent most of my time in high school thinking about where I could go to get away from school. Now, as a so-called adult, I have high-schoolers of my own, and if the truth be known, I still fight with school. I have, however, come to appreciate that every once in a while you come across a really great teacher who cares about both the students and the subject they are teaching.
I think what sets these teachers apart is their ability to share. They don’t lecture or stick rigidly to text books. Instead, they share their enthusiasm and the personal experiences that have caused them to love the subject they are teaching. When your teacher includes you in their passion, it fuels your own curiosity.
I have been a writer since before I could write. Growing up, I shared a bedroom with my sister, and from a very early age, I’d make up stories to entertain her (as well as myself) before we fell asleep. When I write, I approach it like a letter to a friend, at least to begin with. This works regardless of if you are writing a report or a novel. After all, what you are doing in both situations is conveying information. I think about what I need to say, and once I am clear, I can go back and add more detail.
Admittedly, for me the details generally come naturally. This is particularly true when writing a novel. I am fortunate enough to write on auto pilot, following whatever pops into my mind. As the story progresses I can be just as surprised as the eventual readers by the twists and turns, and yet it all makes sense in the end.
For others, I have often been told it’s a little different. Many have a tendency to get overwhelmed, but there are questions you can ask yourself. For example, what is it I am trying to tell? If my best friend were telling me this story, or giving me this information, how might she explain it? What part might I not understand? And of course, what has become invaluable, can I Google it? Google can be a Godsend when it comes to filling in some of the finer details. The hardest part is usually just getting started.
If I were to teach a class, I would urge people to write anything at all, even if they think they couldn’t possibly use it. Say, like my oldest daughter recently had to do, you had to write an essay for your college application. I think her given prompt was to tell who she was, but she had been given so many cautions about what not to do or say, that she was paralyzed. I told her to get their attention by saying she lived in a land of leprechauns. Now granted, I was joking, and she walked away shaking her head, but she wrote down, “I do not live in a land of leprechauns.” She didn’t really think she’d use that line. She was just fooling around, but then she went on to say, when asking for advice, this is what she was told. She wound up leaving that first line and proceeded to write an incredible essay about being raised in a family of dreamers. She not only let it be known who she is, but how she feels about it who she has become and who she hopes to be in the future.
The bottom line is this, writing should be fun. The more you do it, the easier it will get. The trick is to not allow yourself to get so stressed out about it. Nothing you put down on paper or screen has to be seen by anyone but you. If you hate it, you can start again. But, maybe, just maybe in the nonsense, or in what you think is awful, there will be one line that you can build on. The most important thing is to write something, anything! Like the Nike commercials say, “Just Do It!” Someone had to write that, you know? I’ll bet they feared they’d be laughed out of the room when they presented it, too.