When I was young, middle school and high school age, I wrote with reckless abandon. I had no idea what a ‘writer’ was. I just wrote, because I had to. My hunger to write was derived more from youthful driven emotion than in understanding that I was writing. It was a release from all the conflicting emotional and physical changes occurring in my body and my home life. Most of what I wrote was true and taken from inner thought and experience. Most of it wasn’t pretty. But, I wrote poems, too. I recorded first love, friendship, pets, and the pain of parental disappointment and anger. I battled with God. I battled with myself. I also created worlds where there was hope and success.
In high school I was fortunate to have two English teachers who inspired and helped shape my early writing style. One was young, reckless, and free-spirited. Her creative writing class was raw and true. It didn’t matter who you were, you were accepted and appreciated in this class. The lowliest could mingle with the holiest, and we discovered humanity by appreciating and sharing our writing. Every day, we began our class with a free-write. She called it “stream of consciousness” writing.
“Don’t worry about what is right or wrong, good or bad, commas or periods, sentence structure or form, JUST WRITE! Write what you feel. Pour it all onto the page; your anger, your happiness, your dreams, your failures. Write it all and write it fast! Don’t think about it, just keep writing ANYTHING until the timer stops. If you don’t have anything to say today then just write words over and over.”
This teacher read and commented on our journals. It was scary as hell, and we eagerly grabbed our journals to see how she responded to our teenage ramblings. We all thought she cared about us. It was the ultimate environment to learn, and feel comfortable in sharing ourselves. We didn’t have to hold back, we could write raw and dirty, and when we did have assignments requiring poetry rules and form, we were happy to explore and give it our best shot. We craved the approval of Ms. Wild.
Mrs. Kasmy was quite the opposite in personality. She taught the ‘advanced’ writing and literature classes. She was older, prim and proper, and a grammar Nazi to beat all grammar Nazis. You got by with nothing in her classes. You conformed or would be conformed. But, I learned deep symbolism in her Short Story class and how to write about it and explain my discoveries clearly and concisely. I learned I loved reading deeply, and finding hidden meanings and exploring human frailty and strength in characters and situations. I hungered for assignments in her Expository Writing class, loving the structure and voice required for each exercise.
One thing that both of these teachers shared was their dedication to write meaningful comments when addressing our writing and homework assignments. I appreciated them both, as they were dedicated to the teaching of children. Their diverse styles conjured up an amazing pathway for my early journey as a writer.
What they ultimately taught me was that our writing has no borders… There is a time and place for every kind of writing imaginable. Creativity thrives on ideas, imagination, deep emotion, and passion. Structure gives order to creativity. It can be used later in the process we call editing. Sometimes, structure isn’t needed at all, depending on the type of writing that is accomplished. If we are to write a book, we need structure. If we are journaling or writing a poem, maybe it’s not so important. One thing rings true for me; we need both.
Creativity and structure are at the heart of our writing. My belief is that they both need to be explored. As a writer, freedom to write is extremely important, and the fear of ‘breaking the rules’ can hold our fragile egos back from writing with reckless abandon; the way we wrote before discovering what a writer, supposedly, is.
Let us write as innocent and naive children, again. Pretend you don’t know about the rules, and JUST WRITE! Then, allow the adult writer voice to go back and begin to organize this miraculous pile of ‘dung’ into something more polished. Use them both, and enjoy the ride.
I would love to hear your thoughts on Creativity Vs. Structure. What opinions and experiences do you have on the subject?
© 2016, Rebecca Braun. All rights reserved.
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