ISTEP testing is all this week for my kids. Carmen, my youngest, is the most distressed about this whole ordeal. But instead of getting stressed out about her getting stressed out, and letting the hurt feeling of stress sink all the way down to the bowels of my earth, I decide to empathize with her pain....
I ask questions...
It's a firssst for me, I KNOW.
I ask her what it is about ISTEP that stresses her out most. She tells me.....*drumroll please*:
I want to put the brakes on my shitty '01 Kia Rio, and park midstreet to hug this girl. The dialogue progresses....
She then goes on to tell me that she never knows what to write. *yet another hug wants to bolt from my arms like lightning to a flagpole*
And then I ask if she really does know what she wants to write, but just doesn't know how to start it all off. "YES".
I also ask if she worries about if what she has to say is going to be critiqued by thousands, and not in a good way, and not in a way that is going to encourage her to keep writing. (In 9 year old language, of course) "Yeeeeeessss", she whines.
An opportunity has presented itself yet again for me to work with my inner child here, those unresolved issues from the past, that WE ALL experience daily, and so I dive in...I remember, I take myself back to those moments in time that I had so much to say, but wasn't allowed to say, or too afraid to say.
I take a deep breath, and the rest is all history......
I tell her about the time when I was in 2nd grade and we had to talk about the most special person in our lives and then summarize all the reasons that we had thought that particular person was so special to us. I told her how much joy sprang to my heart to think of my parents, and I thought of what the word "special" really meant, and that I knew it had to be something more than "I love mommy because she cooks. I love daddy because he's funny". I knew they wanted more. So I wanted to write more. I wanted to be original. But my hungry for society's approval mentality argued otherwise. I suffered my first form of "writer's block" in this moment, and hated feeling such an intense feeling of internalizing.
I wanted to write what the fuck I felt like writing. But, if I didn't want to get laughed at, made fun of, or potentially rejected by my teacher for writing squabble, well then, I had better go the safe route. That was usually the route I always wound up taking. But images of my dad's poofy mustache kept dancing through my hair, and the fact that my mom used to lie to us when we wouldn't wear our seat belts (I didn't know it was a lie at the time though) and say that the cops had radar guns for those who didn't wear seatbelts.
Well, I went against my better judgement that day. i wrote all the silly specialness that flowed from within my heart. And that, is what got me a first place ribbon and a picture in the local newspaper in first grade. Not a conqueror of worlds, but it got me recognition where I least expected. So that's what I shared with Carmen.
She's got the gift. Hell, all 3 of my kiddos do. But they're verbally constipated, like I was. Too many emotions pent up and not comfortable to let them flow just anywhere. I see it. I know it. But to the ones outside our "circle of light" it is completely invisible. We don't want to be made fun of. Or critiqued. So we shut our little wordholes and let everyone think we don't have a word to say.
But this isn't what got me where I am today. That adopted ideal isn't what landed me a tedious job tutoring other kids how to write essays in summer school, only after I was expelled for smoking in the bathroom and my English teacher hunted me down and practically begged me to come help her students to show them how I write. She even offered to pay me. I was very dense in these kinds of delicate situations, and my mom practically had to beat it into my head that this teacher had saw something special in my writing, and that she was willing to pay me to come back and help her, even though I fucked up majorly and broke rules and got booted out of that system. The teach' was even willing to fight the school system for booting me out, if I wanted her to. But I made it very clear that that wouldn't be neccessary. I didn't really want to be in summer school anyway, and didn't even want to help the teach', to be quite honest. But after a hardy head beating from my mom, she convinced me that this was an opportunity to grow, halfhearted as I was.
But I remember, the papers I wrote in that class, they came from the heart. I didn't think first before I wrote. I just belted out whatever was on my chest and basically left God to kill em all and sort the rest out later, so to speak. (I was a habitual drug user and drinker then, so the rebel in me was president for the next five years. I didn't give a flying fuck what anybody thought.)
This is the same ideal that landed me in college prep English my freshman year, which I wound up dropping like a dirty rag, to my future dismay, because I didn't want to actually have to put forth any real effort in my writing skill. The "writing from the heart" ideal is what also got me out of having to take my final my senior year in English, because it wouldn't have mattered either way if I took it or not, the teach said I still aced the class. This is also the same ideal that I go by in all my writing now, unless I feel the ridiculous presence of some fucktard lingering over my shoulder telling me "Don't write that. That's fucking STUPID." (That 'twould be me folks.)
So I guess what I'm really trying to say here is that, when you write, you shouldn't think about and analyze it so god-damned much. Go with your gut feeling. THAT is what gets results. Even if it is just $2.50 an hour teaching fellow sophomores how to write the way you do.