When looking back on your life, it’s easy to tell if you’ve changed. But, more difficult to understand, is what made you change. I am a substantially different writer from my younger self, and I have the unique privilege of knowing the exact event that transformed me into the writer I am today.
Gary Wegley was probably the hardest English teacher I’ve ever had. He was always very harsh when grading my papers, and always gave the “I’m preparing you for college” excuse. Of course, I know that he was acting with my best interests at heart, but it still didn’t make revising all of my papers anymore fun. So when he flat out told us that the research paper he was assigning would be the hardest prompt he’d ever given us, I was naturally extremely concerned. The objective of the paper was to compare the school systems between the United States and a country of our choice, but it couldn’t be in essay format. Instead, we had to find other creative forms of writing to express the information, whether it was a news feed, an advertisement, or letters. At first I was really confused, because how on earth was I supposed to tell my documented research through anything but an essay? I didn’t believe that the other forms of writing possessed the ability to tell my story effectively. I didn’t even think of them as forms of writing, just as a means to entertain. For multiple weeks I procrastinated the writing portion of the project, and focused on my research. With a week until the due date, I started to panic a little, and I decided to bite the bullet and just start writing.
The basic structure of my paper was a woman in the United States writing to her sponsor child in Peru. The timeline goes from the child’s freshman year in high school to their senior year in high school. The woman, Nicole, kept keepsakes throughout her sponsor child, Minerva’s, high school career. As Minerva’s graduation gift, Nicole had put together a scrapbook of all of her accomplishments, to show Minerva how far she had come. Peru has a terrible educational system, so that Minerva was able to graduate at all was amazing in itself.
Since this was a research paper of sorts, I had multiple pages of documented research, the only problem was putting them into the paper creatively. Still at a complete loss for how to do this, I decided to just make the scrapbook how I would make one for a friend, and then go back and add the research in where I felt it fit best. That seemed to take the pressure off me significantly, and I felt my creative side start to actually function for the first time since Mr. Wegley handed me the project requirements. I wanted to mimic the relationship between a sponsor and a sponsor child to the best of my ability, so I chose letters as my main source of writing. Then I added in an advertisement project, a diploma, and a graded paper, just as someone would in an actual envelope letter. After I completed all of that, I found it was surprisingly easy to go back and find sentences or paragraphs where my data fit well and smoothly. In my letters, I had them discuss the weaknesses and strengths of Minerva’s school and her teachers, in the advertisement I found it easy to showcase the lack of resources available to the schools, and in the diploma I exemplified how difficult it was to receive one.
Quite frankly, I was blown away that these forms of informal writing could present documented research effectively. It completely changed the way I look at all forms of writing, opening my eyes to the fact that all writing is important, and all writing has something worthwhile to say. Whether a magazine article, a scribbled note, or a facebook post, all writing matters.
With that in mind, I can no longer brush off forms of writing simply because I think they aren’t ‘proper’. Now I have learned to pay attention to everything I read and try to discern something meaningful from it. I no longer look to only textbooks for answers, but I have widened my horizons to every facet of writing, and because of this I’ve learned more lessons than I ever would have before.
It taught me to respect all of my peers, because even if they don’t have the best grammar or the same ideas as me, they do have something important to say. This new outlook demanded that I hear other people and listen to the points they’re trying to get across, making me more open-minded than I would have been otherwise.
Along with changing how I view writing, this project has changed how I write things down myself. Knowing that every form of writing has something important to offer, gives me a sense of responsibility with everything I write. No longer can I type a facebook post without a thought, instead I recognize the message I’m trying to get across and do my best to express it fully. Of course, this wasn’t the only misconception the project helped me overcome. Simply being able to write down my ideas has always been a struggle for me. Freewriting took me way out of my comfort zone because it guaranteed I would make mistakes, and that really put me on edge. This project though, forced me to leave familiarity behind. It was brand new territory and I couldn’t rely on my old traditional methods to get the job done anymore. Similar to a parent throwing their child in the pool to teach them to swim, Mr. Wegley immersed me in these completely foreign waters of writing, and I surprisingly didn’t drown. Instead I thrived and started testing out different styles of writing with ease like poetry and short stories, it gave me a freedom that I hadn’t realized I craved. With each scribbled word I have become bolder and bolder, creating more vibrant works than I ever could have accomplished in my monotonous days of writing inside the box. Now I understand writing’s true potential, and I’m even starting to see some of the potential in myself. At least, I can when I let myself write in the confidence that what I’m saying is important. It’s strangely comforting, to know that everything I write matters, and that none of my words are wasted.