It’s late April of 2015. I’m a junior in high school. I’m taking Honors American Literature with Ms Teson, and we’ve just been assigned a paper on Edgar Allan Poe. All I know about Edgar Allan Poe is from the Tell-Tale Heart episode of The Simpsons where Lisa tries to sabotage a fellow student’s science fair project by adding a cow’s heart to her diorama, only to be driven mad by guilt when the heart continuously beats, à la Poe. I don’t think I can write about this for my paper. I watch the episode anyways. It’s suddenly 4:00 am and I’ve watched the entire sixth season. I go to bed and deal with Teson later.
It’s early December of 2015. I’m a senior in high school. I’m taking Advanced Composition I with Ms Hamilton, and we’ve just been assigned an extended paper on a single word. I know a lot about different words; I don’t even have to watch The Simpsons to learn. It’s 2:00pm on a Saturday. I start writing.
In late April of 2015, I hate writing. I mean, I like writing, I like the class and I like listening to the discussion about what Melville really meant when he opted to describe the sea as ‘blue’ instead of ‘greenish-blue’, but I hate sitting down and formally writing. I thought I enjoyed organizing papers and making everything look good, but nothing ever looks good enough and I haven’t seen Mr Burns’ face as Marge tries to feed him Blinky the three-eyed fish in a really long time. Formal writing makes a person sit down and think about every connection between every idea until the ideas are so sloppy and disconnected you can’t remember the point. Formal writing focuses so deeply on word choice and it’s never perfect, until eventually phrases like ‘They’re warm, nice people with big hearts’ read ‘They're humid, pre-possessing homosapiens with full-sized aortic pumps’. Formal writing is a murder weapon when artsy teenagers are forced to hate the work they create until they hate themselves too. In late April of 2015, formal writing got to me. I stopped writing.
I was terrified of school after junior year. Even though my schedule changed dramatically and my class load was an embarrassment compared to my years of all honors and all straight As, I was terrified of taking an English class. I was terrified of reliving the days of not letting myself fall asleep because I had work to do but not actually ever doing any work either until I was sleepless and numb and apathetic and stressed about my grades and my future. But I needed four years of English so I had to suck it up. I took Advanced Comp, I went to class, I met the zany Ms Hamilton my brother had raved about, and I wrote from the perspective of my three year old self who told the story my grandmother loves to tell about me pouring water on myself time after time again and not realizing why I was so wet. I wasn’t penalized for using first person or for trying weird things or for having a voice. I wrote from the perspective of a three year old, and that three year old sounded like a snarky 17 year old who grew up with a sarcastic dad and a sarcastic brother, and then I wrote the same story from a pool’s perspective and it didn’t go well at all, but I was allowed to try it. I could develop a style. I could use anaphora or tricolons or make thematic connections without being told how and when I could use anaphora or tricolons or make thematic connections. I had a voice, and I was allowed to develop it.
My favorite paper involved me bashing Trump (obviously) and I was so excited to write it, and so happy with the outcome, I actually wanted to share my work. I’d never wanted to share my work before, but I didn’t feel the pressure of being perfect with creative writing. “Trump 2k16 (Or, Why I’m So Afraid Of Terrorism)” made me laugh as I was writing it both because I think I’m really funny and clever, and also because I couldn’t believe I’d ever be writing an assignment during my free time. I had forgotten what it was like to enjoy school; school was always a necessary evil to become successful (rich) and never an opportunity to actually learn. Creative writing gave me a chance to learn and explore, not to monotonously memorize.
I’m proud of the work I’ve done in this class. I’ve been happy with work in other classes, but never proud, and creative writing really does make me proud. It can be difficult for me to articulate ideas verbally, and I never realized that could change if I write instead. If I talk about the hypocrisies of the War on Terror in person, nothing substantial comes out, but when I have the time to put it on paper, I have control. I lost control in Honors American Literature, and writing like this is helping me get it back.