When I was a little kid, I was obsessed with writing. From the moment that I was five years old, I would come home and write 20-page stories, usually about fictional characters. When I was 11, my favorite animal was a hippo; I mean, I was OBSESSED with them. So I created all of these characters in my mind and made a website out of it. I would write different stories about the characters, I would draw comics and have my mom scan them on to the website, and I would include a bunch of hippo facts. Ken the Purple Hippo was the prevalence of my creativity.
I’ve always been creative, but then I started getting older. As I entered middle school and took more creative writing classes, I began to realize that they actually didn’t want you to be creative at all. My days of free-writing were over, and now there were rules. As high school approached, I was so jaded and opposed to writing; it just wasn’t the same. I didn’t enjoy it anymore. It wasn’t fun, creative, or free, but contrived of rules and steps we have to take in order to write a ‘good essay.’ I didn’t care about writing an intro, body, and conclusion paragraph. I didn’t care about making sure the story transitioned well–I just wanted to write freely and have fun doing it.
My hatred for contrived writing especially grew when I enrolled in an AP English class around sophomore year of high school. I did qualify for the class–I’ve always loved writing and spelling and grammar have always come easily to me. But this class was centered only on the rules of writing. I ended up passing the AP English test, but it still bothered me that writing is something that is supposed to fun, cathartic, and creative, yet all of these people were trying to shape my writing into something it’s not.
All of these people were trying to tell me and my classmates what designated good writing and bad writing, when, in reality, writing is subjective and personal. It’s not supposed to be deemed bad or good because it’s my own. I wasn’t the same little girl who freely wrote without a care in the word. I wasn’t the same girl who would be proud to whip out a 20-page story in 45 minutes because now I had been taught what ‘good writing’ is. Now, I had been taught that in order to be a ‘good writer’, I had to follow all of these guidelines and follow through with them. I started to realize that the concept of writing, at least in the educational system, does not allow for you to be genuinely creative.
Today, I don’t feel like I even have time to free write, because I always have essays for school to write. What even constitutes good writing? Who has the right to tell someone if they’re writing is good or not? Teachers might tell you to be creative and let your mind wander while writing, but you’ll still get a bad grade if you don’t succumb to their rules and write ‘correctly.’ Writing is supposed to be relaxing and it’s supposed to serve as a release, but now my papers are getting graded? Don’t get me wrong, there are certain things that are vital to writing something readable and enjoyable, but being critiqued on my papers involving things I was forced to write–that’s not enjoyable for me. That’s not the writing I grew up loving.
Isn’t the purpose of writing to be creative, let your thoughts flow out onto the paper, and use it as a form of therapy or distraction from reality? That fact alone is why I favor free writing as opposed to more structured papers such as persuasive papers, English essays, etc. Writing soon became something I hated, and I hated that because I knew it was something important to me. It took me a while to realize school structure was corrupting my love for writing, and that I needed to fight to reclaim my passion.
Writing has always been important to me because it’s how I cope with everyday situations. It’s how I cope with life. Writing eases my stress and anxiety, but for a while, I felt like it had been taken away from me. As I drifted away from expressing such a creative outlet, my mental health deteriorated. I had to overcome the stress of school writing to rediscover my love of creative-writing. If you’re in this situation, first realize that writing can be whatever you, the writer, wants it to be. Second, write. It’s as simple as that. Don’t even think about it. Pick up a journal, light some candles, put on some music, sit back, and write.
Don’t let anyone prevent you from doing something you love. Don’t let school ruin your perspective on what it’s like to write and what it does for you. Don’t lose that zest for the stories you create–and I certainly won’t ever let myself feel discouraged again. I owe it to my young, passionate self to remain true to my love for writing. I owe it to all the characters I’ve created in my mind throughout the years. And I owe it to Ken the Purple Hippo.
Written by Gwendolyn Crowe