I was always told I was a writer.
Ever since I can remember, writing came so easily to me. In elementary school words would flow from my pencil with great ease. I rarely had to make outlines or even think about what I would write next. Any story or poem I wrote just “happened.” In fourth grade I wrote my first “novel” about a girl that loved horses and lived on a farm. That same year I also wrote about a horse I used to ride when I lived in Canada, Sissi, which was published in a book of poems by children. Songs, short stories, long stories, poems, articles… I wrote it all, and I loved doing it. I also loved to read and be read to. Without me knowing it at the time, books would transport my mind into another world and really let my creativity grow.
Then fifth grade came.
I wanted to write fiction, my favorite genre, however I was told I couldn’t. Nor could I read it. Instead, the ability to express myself and expand my imagination was crushed, and I was limited to writing and reading non-fiction and essays. I hated it.
Enter middle school.
During this time and the majority of high school, the limitations my fifth grade teacher put upon my writing was continued. Fiction, reading, and writing for “fun” was rarely on my mind anymore. Sure, on the occasion if an idea popped into my head I would start to write and see where it went, but I never worked at it. In fact, I could rarely finish anything I started. Instead, I found that instead of writing and reading because I wanted to, I wrote and read because I had to.
My sophomore year of high school, however, I saw the ability to revert back to the way I used to write when the opportunity to attend a school of the arts in addition to my public high school arose. I applied to two: one school I thought I had a decent chance of getting into, and a second, more prestigious “reach” school. Much to my surprise, I was accepted into both.
Did I go? No. And it is something I still regret doing to this day.
Instead of taking advantage of the chance to enhance my writing skills not only in fiction, but all genres, I chose to stick to my cookie cutter, structured academic journey. I feared that attending one of these additional schools would hinder my success in public school, therefore affecting where and if I got into college. So, instead of grasping at the chance to work on the talent others saw inside me, I let it all go because choosing to go off the beaten path was not a good idea or accepted where I’m from. Other than one story in my AP English class my junior year, I did not do any more creative writing the rest of high school.
So my creativity continued to deplete as the years since fifth grade passed me by. It wasn’t until I took a creative writing course the first semester of my senior year of college that I was truly able to tap into it again. I chose to take a mixed course: half the time we would be writing poetry and the other half fiction. Writing pieces of work other than essays proved to be harder for me than I remembered, but, thanks to the feedback of my peers and professors, I was successful. I got an A- in the class overall, with a B+ in poetry and an A in fiction. Though I was happy to dip my toes back into creative writing again, I soon lost this feeling my second semester when I had to write my thesis for my major, American Studies. Analyzing 72 issues of Cosmopolitan Magazine and writing 88 pages on how it is anti-feminist for honors is not easy.
After graduating, I was so burnt out from school that I wanted absolutely nothing to do with academia. I applied to graduate school in London, was accepted, and turned it down. Though I was unable to go due to monetary reasons and was sad about missing this opportunity, I was secretly happy that I did not have to do any more academic reading or write any more papers. Now, a year and a half later, I am finally ready to start writing again, to start tapping into my creativity again.
My problem? I don’t know how.
All the years of limited writing ruined my creative self. Yes, writing non-fiction pieces and persuasive essays did help me grow as a writer in general, especially in terms of how to get my ideas across well and how to write technically. But, at the same time, it prevented me from thinking outside the box, from making up unconventional ideas in my mind, from finding a way to express myself on paper without having to analyze information to generate facts. I am writing this article to tell you that, no matter what you are told in school, do not put an end to your creativity. Even if a teacher tells you no, work outside of school to make yourself grow. Do what you can to keep your creative juices flowing, even if just a tiny bit, so you don’t lose them later in life. If you do, you’ll regret it. I know I do.