CRIPPLED BY THE SYSTEM – BUT NOT ANYMORE!
For many, many years I was convinced that I “couldn’t write” even though I loved reading, even though I had ideas zooming around in my head, even though I loved words and playing around with them, even though I made up endless stories…
I did write poems, but they were different from stories. My poems were little, short snippets of language where the words were crafted in my head, fiddled around with to get the best ones in the best place, where everything sounded just right before I had to record them on paper. That was fun. There was a sense of achievement.
Stories and essays were a very different kettle of fish. They were hard work. Producing them was a matter of painstaking drudgery that began in Primary school. Back then, at the start of every school year children were issued with a heap of pristine exercise books that had to be taken home, covered and had our own name and the particular subject name written neatly on the front.
The expectation was that the work in each one was to be our very best. No scribbling; no scratching out; no careless, untidy work; no crumpled or torn pages. In other words, by the end of the year that exercise book should be as pristine as it had been on day one but full of work in our very best handwriting. Unattainable perfection for most of us!!
As far as writing was concerned the two that were my nemesis; my tragic downfalls were labelled Handwriting and Composition. The former was bad enough, but it was the latter that led to my conviction: “I can’t write”. Apart from the “Product Perfect” headset the other thing about compositions was that they had to be written straight into the composition book with correct spelling, perfect punctuation, excellent handwriting… no rough copy, no first draft, no preliminary notes. Straight from the brain cells to the page; no muckin’ about.
If I wanted to use a nice long expressive word like ginormous but didn’t know how to spell it correctly, I had to make do with a little short one I could spell (big) because errors were out, frowned upon, seen as evidence of lack of learning, failure… Where was the interest or excitement in that? I was effectively crippled.
Fortunately, education in this area seems to have moved on. Composition books as I knew them have gone the way of the dodo. Teachers and students now talk about first drafts and final copies. Thanks be.
If you can relate to that last paragraph then count your blessings and keep pouring your ideas, thoughts, stories out onto paper or into your computer. If it is the rest (or even part of the rest) and you want to write but think you can’t then ditch the doubts, grab a writing implement – pen, paper, computer – jump in and make a splash. Mistakes and stuffing up are potholes, not impassable roadblocks.
We learn by doing! And lots of practice!! So go to it and good luck.
© Mary McDee 2022
Feature Photo: Censored 1939 courtesy of L.M. Kling — Postcard sent from the Deutsches Reich 1939 (an example of perfect? handwriting).