Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Anybody can Write

My sinuses are giving me a fit again. Yesterday by 4 pm, I felt as if my head would explode, but I didn't leave work until 4:45 and only because my PC crashed. I had opened too many photo files. To make a long story short, I went to bed at 9:30 pm. I wasn't really sleepy but my head was achy and I felt a bit feverish. Thinking I needed help with my sleep, I looked for a boring book to read. I found one I hadn't read yet...a book on writing. It was in the clearance bin at Barnes and Noble, begging me to buy it, so I did.

The book is "Anybody can Write" by Roberta Jean Bryant: A playful approach; Ideas for the aspiring, the beginning and the blocked writer. On the back it gives a detailed message of what to expect (we all know how these books go and what they usually say). There are naturally some writing exercises like: Engage in paper and pen conversation, Free your creativity through escape writing, Keep an "anything goes" journal, Learn to fingerpaint with words, and Have a conversation with your muse or even with your writer's block.

So I picked it up and began to read...and found myself relating to what Mrs. Bryant had to say: that creativity can be stifled by well-meaning teachers and parents. She gave an example from her youth. During the third grade, she was introduced to finger painting. She was very excited about it and thought, 'I wonder what will happen when I put this color beside this color...' and she would dab different colors, excited about how they looked beside each other, wondering what would happen with each color. Suddenly, her teacher was beside her and asked, "What are you painting?" and she thought, "Uh?"... then said tentatively as if questioning, "Flowers?"... the teacher grabs a brush, runs it through the green paint and says, "You need to add some leaves and stems"...and she destroys Mrs. Bryant's painting...changing it from what it was...an experiment with creativity.

I remember reading "The War of the Worlds" by H.G. Wells in the 5th grade and writing a report on it. Instead of writing "color" and other words like we Americans normally do, I wrote "colour" like the English do, because that's how those words were written in the book. I got a D on the report and I asked why. The teacher said because of my misspellings--that I knew better. I said that I wrote them like H.G. Wells had done...that the report was on his book and should be written in the same way... she and I argued over this and I think she was at a loss of explanations as to why I was wrong and she was right. She knew I had a point but she also knew she couldn't let me by with it because it went against the grain of her teaching method and took away some of her teaching power. In the end, she said I could re-write it in "American" grammer. I rewrote it but the damage was done. She had installed a hint of doubt to my instinctive creativity to writing reports or any type of project. After that incident, I painfully completed essays, projects and reports, fretting over the outcome.

How many times have we been told our method of doing a task is wrong, when in the end it probably comes out to the same results?

I wish I had a hundred dollars for all the times I've heard people say to me "Oh I wish I could paint like you or I wish I could cook like you or I wish I could write poetry, etc." I always reply, "But you can. You might not do it like I do or like anyone else but you can paint or you can cook or you can write..." and so I tell the story of my crocheting experience. I can crochet but not very well...and if the person is in my house I show them my crochet project--a very crooked afgan. I have never thought I couldn't do something I really wanted to try to do. So many people experience defeat before ever trying a task or an adventure into the unknown.

You can write, you can read, you can do anything your heart sets its sights on...just because the outcome isn't exactly as you imagined it would be, doesn't mean you failed. What it does mean is that you succeeded in trying and imagining that you could and who knows...maybe your next venture will be a success.

I'm glad I started reading the "Anybody can Write" book. I'm looking forward to the adventures waiting within the pages.


John said...

You know, you wrote this blog post all wrong. That's not how I would have done it.

Bob said...

That book sounds like "Poem Crazy", a book I read last summer... very much along the same lines, tho focused on writing and finding poetry all around you.