Sherri Winans
Whatcom Community College
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Erin Runciman
English 201
Essay 1
December 2003

Who Turns the Wheels in my Head?

It’s Wednesday morning sometime, way too early to be sitting in my Advanced Composition class, especially after a long night at work, and tons of homework after that. I’m at the computer reading responses from Speakeasy, this really cool online café in which one can write and share ideas and get feedback. Last week I wrote about how writing is such a challenge to me, how it is a test of my patience. It is me learning again what I have read, or trying to organize all of my jumbled thoughts. Writing has never come easy to me, but I appreciate the challenge, especially now that I am surrounded by people who have such a passion for it. And by the responses I am receiving on Speakeasy, I’m afraid my classmates are beginning to think I am cold. "Don’t you appreciate writing?" they ask. "Do you not see the beauty in it?" "If not in yours, then in other people’s writing?" It’s not that I don’t have a passion for writing at all, I just have a hard time with the creative aspect of writing coming out of me without being so distorted. Why do I want to write anyway?

I’m sitting here thinking way too much about what I’m going to write, staring off into space, fingers tapping keyboards all around me. I am surrounded by my peers, all of whom are sitting at computers, their thoughts flow freely into their works, why can’t mine? Looking into the next classroom, I notice the same goings-on. So many people typing away, perfectly content with whatever they are producing onto the page. They don’t stop, and go back and read what they wrote. Read, re-read, revise. How have I been brainwashed so? I keep trying to think of ways to escape. I will go and write a comment in Speakeasy or go to the student bookstore for computer disks. Why am I trying so hard? Why am I so cold? I do want to be here, to improve my writing skills. I want to explore my options in life and learn everything I can. I want to see the world from many different points of view. Writing could be my tool.

I sit back and realize I have been sitting in class, all of these ideas sparking in my brain, turning little wheels… who is turning those wheels? I suppose I should be paying attention to the teacher, she is speaking now, but I am writing! There is a constant flow of thoughts being transferred from my brain to the paper. I am pleased with this. And there, that is it. Whoever was turning those wheels in my head has gone on lunch break or gone fishing or something. Whoever was turning those wheels sure operates strange hours.

Writing is a challenge to me. Or shall I say creative writing is a challenge to me. I have no difficulty in summarizing others works, or taking notes. But essays? No wonder my classmates think I am so cold. They can probably literally see the frost growing over me when the teacher as little as mentions writing an essay. I mean, an essay is deep stuff, and all I can think about is a logical, bulleted form on the paper with my ideas and thoughts carefully organized. You want me to do what? Be creative? Have a voice? If I wasn’t so darn stubborn I would seriously have squirmed my way out of Advanced Composition on the first day.

Since that first day of Advanced Composition I have given much thought to why I might be so bitter toward writing. Some of the more obvious reasons I have come up with are my experiences with writing in school. Each year, as far back as elementary school, I can remember having to conform to yet another way of writing. It seems like every teacher I have had has a different idea of what is "good" writing, and how we as students should go about it. Some teachers wanted brainstorms, some wanted an essay as a first draft. Some teachers wanted an outline, some outlines had to be in roman numerals. For goodness sake! What lunatic English teacher really cares about how an outline is numbered? Shouldn’t that teacher care more about the content of our work and the level of our creativity within it? I recall one year being told by a teacher (who’s name we will leave out to protect the innocent) (Ms. Castle!) that it was a grammar no-no to refer to yourself as "I" in an essay. I was constantly writing and having to re-write my papers in that class because my paper would be marked down if it wasn’t completely devoid of the first person narrative. Having been forced for an entire year to write in the third person made me feel like a schizophrenic, it was just not my style. Every one of these experiences were negative, thus causing me to shy away from writing anything smacking of creativity.

Why do teachers do stuff like that? There has to be some logical reasoning behind it all, like something they learn in teacher school. I know it isn’t out of pure evil; these people aren’t evil, or they wouldn’t be teachers.

And then there’s this situation: because my grades were pretty good throughout school, and I have an easygoing personality, I was constantly put into groups with students that needed a little extra encouragement. I would end up doing a great majority of the work, like writing whole group reports on my own, while everyone in the group received the grade. Yet another negative stroke against writing. It fast became a chore, something I did not want to do.

It isn’t that I am completely void of creativity, it is just channeled into other areas of my life. I think it might be that whoever turns the wheels in my head is more motivated by color than words. I love to paint, garden and cook. But by the negative experiences I have had with writing, whoever turns those wheels has been programmed to go on break whenever I attempt it. Besides, I think maybe the wheel on the logical side of my brain is more popular, it seems to turn more often. This could be another reason I am so detached from my own writing. Or it could be that lunatic English teacher. (And on that note, I do not think all English teachers are lunatics).

People sometimes believe the passion for writing and the passion for reading go hand in hand. This is not so. I am living proof. I quite like reading, but then, I like reading for more informative purposes. (My favorite book right now is a guide to camping in Washington). I’ll be reading something, like fiction, and my brain will be looking for the key concept. Why do I have to read two pages of descriptive crap just to find one key concept? I don’t want to read la de da de da…here’s the key concept. I think this reaffirms my suspicions that the wheel on the logical side of my brain is turning more frequently. However, there are exceptions, as there are exceptions for everything. My favorite author in the entire universe (at least out of the few authors I might have been exposed to in my mere 22 years) is Dave Barry. He is absolutely hilarious, and he writes about complete nonsense. Or, at least, he can write around serious issues and current events, and turn them into complete nonsense. I have read, and will continue to read, anything written by him that I can find.

Also, I am thoroughly enjoying my assigned readings from the book Reflections on Language. This book seems to be a compilation of excerpts and short stories on what exactly language is, and how we, as humans, learn and utilize it. This interests me. Reading about so many other people learning to use language, the science of it all, the artistic aspect, and how the passion for (or bitterness toward) reading and writing is formed within us form birth. After discovering these exceptions to what I enjoy reading, I wonder if I have omitted anything on what I take pleasure in writing?

I appreciate the challenge of writing, because as I may have mentioned, I am quite stubborn. I have just never thought of or used (without being forced) writing as an creative outpour. Had I been free to explore this "writing voice" earlier in life, I might not have shied away from writing creatively. As a teenager, I may well have expressed my mixed emotions with words rather than colors of paint. I may have developed a love for poetry, or song writing. I may have written plays and stories, as so many of my peers claim to have done. I may have developed even more of a hunger for reading, especially for reading fiction.

Where might I be now? I might share the passion for writing with my classmates instead of freezing over at the very idea, but I will attribute that to fate. I do want to be here, to widen my horizons, to learn to love writing, my own and other’s. I do want to learn to appreciate creativity in writing, to see the beauty in it, and to be unbiased against each writer’s individual voice and style of writing. Writing is already useful to me in many ways, and I will find more ways in which it will be useful. Writing shall be my tool.

 

Copyright 2003
Erin Runciman

 

Funded through the U.S. Dept. of Education, Title III Grant PO31A980143
Sherri Winans, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA
1999-2015