When I think back to my earliest memory of writing, I cringe a little. Not because it was bad--I mean, of course it was bad. Everyone is terrible at writing when they first start. But that's not what makes me cringe. For those of you who grew up in Florida in the 90s, you might remember a "fun" little standardized test we had called the "Florida Writes". Yay, standardized testing...Remembering it now makes me cringe all over again...
Basically, this test was given to 4th, 8th, and 10th or 12th graders. To be honest, I only remember taking it in 4th grade, so I'm not sure if older kids actually took it. I guess it was a way to measure how well Florida kids could string together a basic 3.5 essay about a given prompt. I distinctly remember they were testing us on 2 separate kinds of prompts: expository writing (factual writing to explain how something works, what something is, etc. Think: journalistic writing or legal writing) and persuasive writing (giving the reader reasons to consider your way of thinking on a particular topic). But it was randomized which kid got which style of prompt. Not sure how they picked. I was a kid; I just took the test.
Even in 4th grade, I was extremely biased toward persuasive writing. It was more fun. I got to be a little creative. As creative as a standardized test will allow, anyway. I remember hating expository writing with a passion! And when my teacher put the prompt in front of us, I always grumbled if that was the one she chose that day. Persuasive writing was my forte. Hence, the reason I went for a PR degree in college and why I love to write stories now.
Thinking back on it, I know I hated it because expository writing was just so much work! Just explaining things to people in a cut and dry fashion was not fun to me. Yes, I'm aware of the irony. It's rather humorous now because I don't mind it so much anymore. I'm in a position in my life where I get to use both in fun and interesting ways.
Photo Credit: Matt Groening (original owner), u/Spy-Sapping via Reddit (meme creation)
The reason I'm sharing this particular memory of a boring and tedious standardized writing test is because it really was the first peek behind the curtain of how much I would enjoy writing in the future.
Now when I got one of those fun persuasive prompts to practice, my teacher would always get onto me. I would get so wrapped up in my thoughts about the topic that I would just write and write and write...We were timed. I can't remember for how long, but I do recall my teacher coming to me and telling me I was writing too slow. I was so engrossed in my topic that I thought only a few minutes had passed. In actuality, I guess we were almost halfway through because my teacher looked at my overly verbose first paragraph and the half of the second paragraph written in scribbly, just-learned cursive and asked, "Can you write faster in cursive or in print?" I answered "cursive" because I had just learned it the year before and I liked how it looked.
For the record, teacher, I really do write faster in cursive. It might be sloppy and difficult to read sometimes, but it's much faster, thank you very much.
So we practiced our writing for the Florida Writes, which allowed me to begin honing my 3.5 skills at a young age. As much as we hated the Florida Writes, I do think it helped me become a better writer throughout my education. In fact, I know it did.
Oh! For those of you who don't know, a 3.5 is a basic essay that they used to teach to help students keep their reports succinct and focus on the points so they didn't digress (like I keep doing!). You basically have 5 paragraphs. No more; no less. Intro with thesis is first where you state what you'll discuss and the three points of evidence you have to support your discussion. Then you have 3 topic paragraphs with explanations about each topic, followed by a closing paragraph--which is basically the intro in reverse. It's great, but a little tedious at times.
And wouldn't you know it? When test day finally came, I ended up with the persuasive prompt. I remember being so happy about it. Granted, I can't remember the topic or my score, but at least I didn't have to write something I hated!
Okay, great. I learned the fundamentals of writing, took a test, and have no idea what the result was some 25 years later. What's the big deal? Why is this worth sharing?
Because, my lovelies, everyone has to start somewhere. For me, that was Conway Elementary in Orlando, Florida taking the stupid Florida Writes test. The story isn't glamorous or overly exciting, by any means. I didn't go on to craft a gorgeously written autobiography or even one short story, but I did go on to write kick ass essays and creative reports in school. And I read a hell of a lot of books for Book Fair days. Y'all know what I'm talking about? You read a book that was part of this program and took a quick 10 question test on a computer in the library. Then you got points. Some of the programs I think gave points for pizza like at Pizza Hut or something. I remember getting some points for the Book Fair. I freaking loved the Book Fair!
I also went on to write a play in a little composition book. Some things never change...I love using comp books for writing...
Again, this was not a very good play, but it has potential to be something! It was a three act called "After the Storm." I was in middle school at the time. Years later, that one stupid standardized test that I'm not even sure still exists helped me refine my skills and started me down the path of thinking about characters; what they would do and why; how their personalities would develop over time; what kind of obstacles could be put in their way to elicit a better response from the audience; etc. I still have that composition book, although I haven't opened it in years. I just smile every time I see it on my shelf.
"After the Storm" was the first thing I wrote straight from my imagination because I wanted to write it. Not because I had to for some test or a grade. This was all me and I treasure that because just a couple short years later, I wrote my first book. We'll talk about that in a later post, though.
The moral of the story is: don't be ashamed of your craft because everyone starts somewhere, and don't let yourself give up on something you truly enjoy. Had I not pursued my writing, a huge portion of my life would be empty. It's who I am. I love my job as a paralegal because I get to use that expository writing in an interesting field. I love writing creatively because it gives me that rush of adrenaline and excitement that frees my mind from everything else. So if you love watching movies, painting, training dogs, I don't care what it is! If it's the thing that frees your mind from everything else, keep at it! Hone your craft and own it because it's yours and its beautiful.
Photo Credit: via Pinterest
I've been toying with the idea of going back to "After the Storm." Maybe I could convert it to a short story and share it in a blog post. I'm experienced enough now that I could church it up and breathe some real life into it where it's just bare bones now. Let me know in the comments if you'd be interested in reading "After the Storm" as a short story!
That's it for this week, dear readers! Check back next week for a very exciting blog as my cover art for In the Beginning will be revealed on the site! In the meantime, if you have questions, ask them in the comments, hit me up on social media, or use the comments form on this site.