Recently, the 15 year old had parent night at her high school.
Her English teacher (who I think will be a great teacher for her this year) asked the parents how many of us LOVED English class in high school. I did not raise my hand.
Which made me think: for a long time I really, really loved English class. I was an avid reader. For a long time, math made no sense to me, and so it was reading and writing that I loved. In elementary school I was, in general, a pretty sub-par student, but man, did I consume books like crazy. I can remember bringing home 5, 6, 7 or more chapter books on the weekends to read. I loved reading with a passion. I still love reading with a passion. Sometime during middle school, everything started to make sense and I became a pretty good student!
When I entered high school, I was not put into honor's English class. I was bummed, but it was okay. While I enjoyed English class, I had to work hard to do well. And I did work hard - and it paid off as I maintained good grades. During the year, I approached the teacher and asked if she would recommend me for honor's English my sophomore year. She said she'd think about it and decided that I was ready. I moved to honor's English and did well. My junior year I did really well in English class. I can say in those years, I enjoyed English. I wrote papers, read a lot, gave book reports - it was good.
I can still remember writing a research paper on child abuse. I remember reading a biography on Mary Todd Lincoln. I remember reading To Kill A Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet. I remember journaling. It was good. I enjoyed my classes.
My senior year I took AP English.
That changed everything. The first paper: I failed. I worked really hard and the next paper was a D. Then I had steady C's. When I analyzed what we were reading; The Heart of Darkness, Metamorphosis, some Dante - I was told I was wrong, my ideas weren't developed, I had no writing style, I didn't support my ideas enough, and overall, my writing was poor.
I was devastated. I met with the teacher, I asked friends to proof-read and help me. And one day, during the first semester, the teacher pulled me aside. I'm not sure what she actually said to me, but I know the gist of what she said: you are not a writer. This is not a good class for you. You should not waste money on the AP exam. You can remain in my class for the rest of the year if you want, but there's another English class I want you to take because you don't even have basic writing skills. Writing is not one of your talents, and while I appreciate your effort, it isn't paying off.
I was crushed. Absolutely crushed. And so, I added a second writing class to my second semester schedule. I went in early to take it (as I had already filled all my periods with other classes). I decided right then and there to not take the AP exam, even though I would stay in the class since I did enjoy the readings we were doing. And in that instant, my brain told me that if I didn't have writing talent then therefore I was not a writer.
This changed me profoundly. When I went to college, I was called out for my good writing. And I blew it off. I assumed it meant the teacher was an easy grader; after-all, I was not a writer. When my speech teacher told me I did a good job with my speeches because I wrote them well, I ignored it: what could a speech teacher know about writing?
I never thought of myself as a writer after being told that I was not. How could I? My English teacher was one of the best, my peers received excellent grades. And so, when she told me I wasn't a writer, I accepted it as gospel. I was not a writer.
I still don't see myself as a writer today. Oh sure, I come here and type some words. Anyone can do that, it doesn't make me a writer. Some people tell me they like my writing, but still I don't feel like a writer. Friends say you are a writer and I shrug, assuming they are being too kind.
Am I a writer? Or am I not? It is so hard for me to say that I am.
A few months ago, on Facebook, I put my job was a "writer at Journey of 1000 Stitches." And then I almost puked. A few days ago, for the first time, I said out loud, to people, I am a writer.
I felt like a fraud. How can I call myself a writer? Because it's so deep in my brain that I am just not a writer. That I need extra help. That it's just not something I can do.
I think that what I do here doesn't count. This isn't real writing.
I don't know how to overcome this, except to force myself on occasion to say I AM A WRITER. Maybe back in that English class, I really did turn in some poor writing. Maybe the teacher thought she would help motivate me to try harder and to push myself. I just don't know. But all I heard that day was that I wasn't a writer. It's hard to forget that. It's hard to not remember how I stood there that day as she told me all of this and tried to not cry.
But I'm trying to change my mind. Maybe I'm not a good writer. Maybe I'll never be a best-selling author (not a current goal anyway). It's pretty certain that none of my blog posts will go viral. Other websites aren't knocking on my door to print my words. But maybe that doesn't count. Maybe I'm a writer. And I need to learn to say it like I believe it!