Rocket scientist Joe Williams has this to say about high school writing: “Frankly, I hated it. I found it so formulaic and forced and stifling that I hated it with a passion, which spilled over into a general dislike for literature at the time. I lived on Cliff’s Notes and copying others’ ideas. Yet underneath that dislike was a passion for sharing that was simmering, waiting to be unleashed. I saw a glimmer of it when freed of the bounds of structured writing in college. In a college composition class, I excelled. I wrote about whatever interested me, and I always wrote at the last minute, pulling all-nighters and having nothing in mind except a general idea. It worked fabulously. The professor regularly read my work to the class, and heck–I even got the good grades to show for it to match those normally reserved for math and science.”
Did my students catch this? When they arrive in my dreaded required class, I have each new crew rate their writing pain on the hospital emoticon scale. If this were an emergency room, most would be begging for narcotics. And they’re surprised to learn how much writing pain I used to experience myself. But high school is over! Let’s remove the unneeded tourniquet. We get to write about real life now, real passions, real careers.
Now Joe works for NASA and blogs at Leading Space. His goal is to write in his truer voice this year (even while employed by the government–Go, Joe!) and he quotes poet T. S. Eliot, “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.”
Last year is over. Last decade is over. Let go of the old pain and the fear about writing. When you have something to say and the passion to say it, your words can be restrained no longer. Let them flow.
Text © Gwyn Nichols 2010
Photo from Joe’s site. It probably belongs to NASA.