When I was coming up, we treated writing like a special gift, and those who could write well felt like they had superpowers. Or at least I did.
In elementary school, I was a terrible student. I got straight F’s, and the source of my lousy grades was math. I failed the sixth grade twice and almost failed the seventh grade.
Correction: I did fail the seventh grade, but someone had mercy on me, and I passed on to the eighth grade. I cannot say for sure today how it happened. Only I am glad it did.
By the time I was in eighth grade, I was seeing a special ed teacher. Every day he would come into our class, they would announce the special ed teacher was here, and the four, five, or six of us would stand and leave with him.
If that weren’t degrading enough, the work we did in that small room was fit for a first grader. Two plus two and four plus four. It was frustrating because the math I needed help with was the eighth-grade stuff.
I knew that one plus one was two. I didn’t know how it applied to the more advanced math in the other room. Still, they would give us these long worksheets with these kindergarten math problems, tons of them all down the paper. Some days, they would give us candy.
It was humiliating, and I would go home and vent my rage in my diary. I would write about how it felt to be singled out in front of the entire class and for the teacher to utter the words, “The special ed teacher is here,” which I thought was unnecessary. The lack of discretion seemed to me a lack of care for our feelings as students. I felt stupid and if that’s how I felt, I am sure the other kids felt it, too.
And then something happened.
This same teacher discovered I knew how to write. Suddenly, everything turned around. I cannot even say for sure how it happened. I still did not understand the math, but the more I wrote, the better my grades got. By the time the school year ended, I had an armful of academic awards and was graduating with honors.
Writing got me out of the eighth grade and into honors classes in High School. (Even honors math.)
Writing got me into College while still in High School. I attended Robert Morris College in my Junior year for early credit. I would go to High School in the daytime and then take the green line downtown for my college course in the evenings. It was dark when I got home every day.
Writing got me into AP Literature, graduating High School with honors, tenth in my class.
The Point of it All
For writers like me, writing isn’t something we dreamed up on a whim, but is an intimate part of our lives. It is something we can trace as ever-present. For us, writing is a deeply rooted passion that played a major role in developing who we are.
My concern now is writing isn’t taken as seriously as other gifts. Do we even consider it a gift? Indeed, one can learn to write through education, training, and coaching, but is it still a gift?
Are there still people who are natural wordsmiths? People, who go the extra mile to string words together into comprehension? People, who devour books like a man starving? And is writing still opening doors for them? As it did for me?
Do we still consider writing a gift, or is everyone a writer?