I hated creative writing assignments when I was a kid. When it comes to a work of fiction, I have Blank Page Syndrome something fierce. I’d like to think that it’s partially because I lack the tools. I remember being taught how to write a research paper, how to properly cite your work, and how to engage in literary analysis. I don’t remember any instruction in how to write a work of fiction aside from – here’s a topic, now write.
My Blank Page Syndrome intensified in high school with what was likely one off-hand comment by my english teacher. I had written a short story for an assignment. I don’t remember the story, but there must have been a fire at the end. The teacher wrote something like “It seems like you grew tired of your story and burned it down.” My memory’s pretty sketchy about the whole thing, but I remember how I felt about it keenly. The Editor latched on to this and interpreted this as, “See, you don’t have what it takes to be a writer. You don’t have the stamina or dedication to write a proper story with a proper ending. You should stick to reading other people’s stories, not writing your own.”
I did just that. After that one paper in high school I never wrote a work of fiction again, but I was great at research papers. I lived for literary analysis. In college, if I could complete a graduation requirement with a literature class, then that’s what I chose. I loved it, but I’m practical. How am I going to make enough money to feed myself doing literary analysis for a living?
Sometimes I wish I were braver.
I suspect there are as many types of writers as there are people, but I’d boil them down to two main groups – the kind for whom writing is like breathing and the kind for whom writing is a fight uphill and back home in a blizzard with no shoes. I’d, obviously, categorize myself as the second type.
Even though there are words and characters swirling around in my head all the time, I for the most part choose to ignore them. I’m beginning to get the distinct impression that this isn’t doing me any great service and that I should be writing instead of ignoring. Getting them out of my head and onto paper, though is the challenge. I open a Pages document or a blank page in a notebook and I get a little anxious. I start second guessing myself and then I give up.
This year I decided I was going to try something different. I had myself talked into Camp NaNoWriMo and for about a month I was ready to go. I made it to 11:45pm on July 31st and I wimped out. I had a general idea of what I wanted to write and a few vague ideas on characters, but I was afraid that I’d never make it to the 50,000 word goal. I thought that might give The Editor more fodder for her campaign against me which didn’t seem wise.
On the other hand, maybe I’m just a wimp.
Since August is my month of laying claim to things, the tiny optimist in me has decided to try and look at it as wimping out for now. I’m going to keep working through this here writer’s workbook and get a better handle on my story. I’m going to live with it for a while and see what the characters have to say. I’m going to trust that they will help me get over the freak out and onto the page…somehow.
I’ve been mulling this idea of mine over for most of the summer and it’s been slowly expanding and morphing over time. A few more months might make me a bit more confident and more likely to succeed.
And then again, it’s probably just me rationalizing my lack of courage, but it’s my rationalization darn it!
On a related note, this existential crisis of mine brings one of my other simmering fears to light. This whole idea of writing – getting words and ideas down onto paper – is something I think I’m a bit ill-suited to teach when it comes to Mr. J’s education. I’m confident enough to teach him the mechanics, walk him through sentence structure, and soak his brain in well-written fiction. As for creative writing or journaling? I end up falling back on what I know (which obviously worked so well for me). I don’t think you’d be surprised to hear that Mr. J has taken to creative writing just about as well as I did when I was his age.
Part of me has considered chucking the theory and grammar for giving him the support necessary to become more comfortable with writing. It’s also the reason why I keep going back to Brave Writer and Jot it Down even though it’s rather expensive.
I don’t have any answers, but I figure there are other homeschoolers (and parents or friends/relatives of children) out there who might feel the same way so I wanted to include a few links like the one above as well as to NaNoWriMo’s Young Writer’s Program. They have oodles of ideas over there including lesson plans and writer’s workbooks. Perhaps you might find some of it helpful for the children in your life.
So, dear reader, that’s the way things are here. How about you?