Writing is something I have a love-hate relationship with. It all depends on the day, and on the topic and style. So I’ll layout a roadmap of what I’ll be going over today: I’m going to be breaking writing down into two forms – structured (what I learned first) and unstructured free writing, and how it’s so much more enjoyable and worthwhile.
Hamburger style (five paragraph essays). When teachers try to explain to you how to write in elementary school (and a few daft teachers at the high school level), they push the “hamburger” style of writing. I didn’t used to like hamburgers, and found it strange that they didn’t just use sandwiches because they’re more universal (probably because kids would jump to PB&J and that would ruin the whole analogy though it’s not like they put more then meat and cheese on their burgers because honestly, these were picky kids). I went with it, not questioning it (or putting much thought into it at all for that matter) but it had worked its way into my subconscious. And I always found that when I wrote, my essays came out dull and insignificant, and I found the experience matched the outcome. In high school I later found an article about why writing and teaching the five-paragraph hamburger style essay was daft, and actually suffocated writing.
“The five-paragraph essay is rudimentary, unengaging, and useless.” -Ray Salazar
In high school, speech and debate pushed me. It was hard, cold, fast, and the first thing to really knock me out of the confining five-paragraph essay. I was in parlie debate with a friend. We would have four to five debates at each competition, each one a different topic, that we didn’t know until 20 minutes prior to starting. Usually they were on current events in the news, but occasionally you get metaphorical or offbeat ones. Technically, debate was more speaking than writing, but it followed the same concept of writing doing an outline as fast as you can while brainstorming for 20 minutes, and then jotting notes and forming arguments in your head while listening to the other team speak. And forming coherent arguments on the fly when you get up to the stand and have no idea what to say. Many teams would layout a roadmap of what they were going to go over before they spoke. I used one above because it’s easier to write then a thesis, but serves the same purpose, though I generally avoid them.
And then, in senior year, I started the well-known senior project. High scholars don’t write a lot of essays, let alone a 11 page research paper accompanied by a 15 hour project and a 15-20 minute speech that they spend 3 months working on. I choose a brilliant topic, and enjoyed every bit of the process.
I had never really free written until senior year. My teacher would have us spend about 10 minutes a few times every week writing in out notebooks. Not for anyone to read, but just to write. She would put a list of vague prompts up on the board to help get us started, like “I wouldn’t have believed it, had it not been with my own eyes…” But “a topic of your own choice” was always an option. It was a chance to not worry about the structure or writing (beginning, middle, end). A chance to just let ideas flow, and not worry about editing. What I’m doing right now? Structured free writing [specific prompt base that I didn’t glance at after I got the gist of it as to not constrain myself as much as possible, outlined, and meant to be read, but not edited (editing would make it into an actual essay)].
Then I noticed YouTubers that I watched inspiring others to write more. I haven’t participated, though it would be awesome if your English class did it this year, is nanowrimo. Basically you write a short novel in a month, and there’s a huge community of other people (many of them youtube vloggers) who participate. And then I found Zefrank (he’s a vlogger, but should be an author). He made a video where he made up a memory with him and the viewer in it. And everyone in the comments were making up more memories with themselves and whoever would read them. I sent the video to my girlfriend at the time, and then for the rest of the night we texted, long, expansive texts holding false memories, with real feelings and connection.
Last summer I went with two friends to Europe. We had a blast, and made thousands of memories, and ever lasting stories. And we wrote a lot of it down. I friend of ours was traveling with his family and keeping a blog so that he could communicate more effectively to those at home, and then have it to look back at later. So after I woke up early one morning, I wrote the first blog post, by the end of the day we had a blog, and in the next few days we had 10 subscribers and a long list of posts. We enjoyed it so much, and loved writing to each other that we’re continuing it this year with a university life blog that we all post to. It’s a great way to keep close to friends even though we’re hours away from each other.
Edit: I forgot to add, junior year, a few friends and I were bored in band class (being awesome trumpet players, we don’t always play much) so we started writing an epic story, trading off the notebook we were writing in every paragraph or page. We ended up filling up three notebooks over the course of the year.