thescriptedtangent

I beg to differ

On Essays

on December 2, 2013

My blog’s name is The Scripted Tangent, but all my posts so far have been structured and orderly. This post, I’m just going to let my thoughts flow, like a zero draft (but less rudimentary).

This morning in English, we read “Essay” by Daniel Coffeen. While reading it, I found myself nodding and agreeing with almost everything he says. To put it simply, the author writes because it helps him gathers his thoughts and put it into one place. A famous quote by John Green says, “My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations,” (Coffeen touches on the constellation metaphor too! Cool!) and although I haven’t read the book that has this quote, I think that sometimes I find myself in the same situation. I have so many wild, contrasting thoughts about everyday things, and no way to wrap my head around them. I don’t enjoy writing for fun, art isn’t my thing, and I can’t sing for my life! How do I express myself?

In English Honors last year, and at the beginning of this year, we read quite a few “Why I Write” essays. All were by different authors and of different styles, but they all said the same thing: “I write because I have to.” Authors need to write: it is their sanity, their sanctuary, their serenity. Just like a painter paints and dancer dances, writers write because it helps them collect their thoughts and share them with the world.

I never knew the origin of the word essay (from French essayer, to try or attempt). You’d think that they’d have that in an introductory powerpoint or something. All this time, I’ve thought of essays as things that take hours of revisions to produce a perfect final draft on pristine white printer paper. It turns out, my zero drafts are essays. The bullet-point lists I make when I don’t know how to write my essays, are essays. So what has school been teaching us?

It sure is.

I think that English teachers and SAT prep instructors teach us the strict, five-paragraph format because they think it will be easier for us. In truth, it’s just easier for them. Teaching thirty-five students to solidify their theses in an hour will show better progress than spending hours with a single student to help them develop their own style.

Mr. Z often says, “we need to teach writers, not writing,” which I definitely agree with. I just wish my teachers told me that before my junior year of high school.

(Disclaimer: I don’t mean to sound ungrateful toward my previous English teachers. Each one has taught me something valuable and memorable. The thing is…I’ve never enjoyed writing, and I wonder if I would have if I’d been taught how to be a writer.)

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5 responses to “On Essays

  1. thomasmundi says:

    Nice use of GIFs, its very creative on your part. Also completely agree with your point about how students a don’t know how to right fluidly. The best example I can think of this is when teachers tell students to restate the questions in their answers. That is a practice no real writer would use and it is pointless, not to mention counter productive.

  2. Umbreen says:

    Personally, I ABHOR writing essays with a specific prompt for school. However, I really enjoy writing on my blog because the topic is MY choice. I don’t worry about structure or anything like that, and what I end up with is usually a better piece of writing than most of the essays I’ve ever had to do. (Down with Jane Schaffer formatting!) Also, I have this multi-chapter story thing going on that I’ve been doing for a while – I was actually planning to work on after reading your post before I read your post, if that makes sense. I never let anybody read it, though, and it never gets anywhere because I keep changing it and restarting it. Despite that, it’s something I really enjoy doing.

    And the think you said about needing to write? Completely true. I actually just wrote a post titled “Thinking About Thinking” which isn’t super related to your post, but it does hint a little bit at one or two of the things you mentioned. Sometimes, I have so many thoughts in my head that in order to get my mind to slow down, I need to focus on something specific and outside of my normal flow of thoughts, which becomes my creative writing. It’s also a way to get some of the stranger things I think out of my head.

    Nice post.

    Umbreen

    • First of all, thank you for taking so much time to read and respond to my post! I really appreciate feedback 🙂
      I really like blog writing for the same reason you do. We’re given many ideas about what to write about in class, but we can pick and choose how and what to write. Personally, I hate both extremes – specific prompts AND creative writing. I want some idea of what I’m doing, but not too much rigidity.
      Good luck on your story! I hope that, whether you decide to publish it or not, it makes you happy and improves your writing!
      Thanks again! I’m so glad you found my post relevant.

      • Umbreen says:

        Ah, I definitely understand your discomfort with too much freedom. Although, I suppose I don’t exactly write without any boundaries whatsoever – I make my own rules. Yes, they can be bent since I made them up, but they give me a general set of guidelines to follow in general.

        Umbreen

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