§Pen, Pencil, Crayon, Phone, Whatever
Early in my life, I didn’t like writing. At all. I don’t know if it was motivation, or subject matter, or the people around me (teachers, family, friends, etc.), or maybe just me. If there was an assignment where I had to write more than a few sentences, I would procrastinate until the last second, and sometimes even after that.
In third grade, I remember having to write a paper on Mars. I went through all of the National Geographic issues that we had in the house after exhausting the small amount of information I had gotten from one encyclopedia at the school library. It was the night before it was due and I was up later than I should’ve been at that age, frantically scrambling (as much as I could at age 8) to make sure the paper was done enough. I woke up the next morning to find out that we had a snow day, and my mom asked at one point if I was going to work on that paper any more than I already had. Nope, it was done, I didn’t want anything else to do with it. No idea why that stands out, except for cementing the idea that I didn’t like to write.
Fast forward to high school. I wrote an essay for Mrs. Wright on how grades weren’t an indicator of anything useful other than objective work. It wasn’t how smart someone was, just that they worked hard enough to complete the assignment, and I think something about having no lasting effect. Ironically I got an ‘A’ on it, not that it mattered (right?).
After taking the first semester off after high school, one college class came along in early 1996. After all the dislike of English classes, I thought I would get Freshman English out of the way so I wouldn’t have to deal with it when I went full time. Gail Rondeau was the teacher, and she was great. She got me into writing and made sure to keep the class interested by changing topics from class to class and having us work on one longer-form piece while we wrote other assignments which would give us a portfolio at the end of the course. My final piece was how violent video games do not cause people to be violent, and in a lot of cases prevent physical violence by giving people an outlet. I remember a lot of revision and explanations through discussion, even though I don’t remember what the final result was… although I didn’t pass the class by way of not completing enough to pass. Oops.
Jump to full time classes at UNH Durham, and I had to take Freshman English. Again. This time it was with Rebecca Dawson - someone who also inspired the class and gave guidance to get us to where we were writing a few pages every week. I’ll always remember that she wanted us to write even when we didn’t think there was anything to say. It was like a faucet that hasn’t been used in a while. When you first turn it on the water that comes out might be dirty and grimy, but eventually the clear and good stuff will follow and that’s where we want to be.
I think I wrote more during that semester than I had in my entire life until that point. My final paper was on body modification, especially piercings, and I had my own anecdote to add to the story (maybe I’ll share that some other time). I ended up with an A for that class, one of only a couple that semester (it’s what I get for enrolling as a Mechanical Engineer who didn’t like taking Physics).
Those two semesters of Freshman English turned it around for me. Looking back, it also makes me wish I’d had some better influences for writing, even if that meant drawing from something within myself.
Today, I enjoy writing both personally as well as for my work in ISIT. Work-wise, I don’t mind writing technical documentation, sending messages that go out to a wide audience, and proofreading other people’s work (when they ask). Outside of work, I write a lot of ideas down, and finally started on a few stories that have been slowly building to a point where they need to be shared. I’m even working on something with one of my kids where we’re bouncing a lot of ideas off of each other. Luckily I have kids who love reading which helps too.
The more I think about it, this isn’t a matter of liking or disliking something. It was finding something in myself to ignore the outside influences and do what I wanted, even if it’s only for my own satisfaction.