English class – I was horrible. Not so much spelling, because I read a LOT, but grammatical definitions for types of words and word constructions confounded me.  I’d scraped by with reading and comprehension skills (college level by 7th grade) but when I hit High School that changed.  I passed my Senior year based on my writing.  I think any teacher or aspiring writer/young student would like this tale . . . it’s something to think about when you get one of “those” students . . .

At the start of each year in High School I found myself buying a 5-section spiral notebook for writing a novel.  Establishing myself (if at all possible) in the back row, hopefully by the windows, I would begin.  You would see me in the back, scribbling away, book open, looking at you occasionally, face somber, and an expression of intense concentration.

“My, what a studious student!”, you might think!  Some teachers, I think, felt flattered I should be taking such copious notes.  But I could do several things at once more or less, depending on how interesting class was.  I could take notes, pay general attention to the lecture while do a little artwork or doodling in my class notebooks (I had my own version of shorthand, and never had to read anything I wrote my than once.)  Or I could write a novel.

I could usually keep the teacher fooled for about three months.  They’d see me back there scribbling day after day . . . and after awhile they would begin to wonder.  You could usually identify the spot I sat by all the spitballs on the ceiling.  (Clay in the art room.)

“My!,” they must have been saying in the back of their minds.  “What an industrious individual!  What is he doing back there?”  And sooner or later they’d make that long leisurely walk around . . .

My algebra teacher (he was a Korean – heavy accent – took me 4 years just to pass ‘pre-algebra’ due to a mental block to the thing) – was horrified.  I got “F’s” constantly.

One English teacher – she was a trip! – in my Junior year, caught onto my game in the spring one year.  Coming around (she was a snappish colored woman, small and wiry with thin legs – Mz. Bolton) – she snatched my notebook up, began reading – opening her mouth to issue her usual sarcastic remarks and cutting phrases – when she stopped, mouth closing.  Still reading she silently walked to the front of the room, sat at her desk – flipped a few pages (I had been writing a ‘sex scene; albeit a strange one, involving Sci-Fi & aliens) – looked up, told the class to shut up, and gave us an assignment.  I just sat there: she had my notebook! – while she spent the rest of the period reading my story.  After the bell rang she gave it back without a word – and I got A’s from then on.  She never asked to see a thing from then on.

In my Senior year my English teacher found me doing the thing early on – in the autumn – and she was enthralled with my report on the symbolism in “Lord of the Flies”, a novel I’d read when I was 12, and it was my most favorite book of all!

The thing about this novel I was writing, well – it turned out that, like “The Boy“, it was a symbolic description of myself, what had happened, only it featured a teen in a post-apocolyptic world – and how he loses ALL his emotions, including love.  Of course at the end I gave it back – only to snatch it AWAY again at the last chapter, leaving him lonely, destitute, living in the woods . . . alone.  The way I ‘felt’ at the time.  SHE told me if I would 1) submit 1 short story every 2 weeks for the School Newspaper (1-1/2 pages, handwritten) to the Geometry Teacher, and 2) turn in  everything I had written at the end of the week every week, I wouldn’t have to do any homework or the regular class work.  Well! Dang!  You can bet that worked for me!  I was on the Newspaper staff as “Contributing Writer” – but I never attended a meeting.  To my surprise I won an award for a writing contest I wasn’t even eligible for, and one I never even entered.  Go figure.

I have ‘writings’ going back a long time – from first grade. Poems, mostly to begin with, the short stories.  I started using a typewriter when I was young – in 6th grade I took classes, and learned to be a “touch typist” (no reason for me to be looking at the keys) – and could hit 120 NWPM.  Pretty good.

Since then . . . well, I’ve used writing as a tool, and I’m a jack-of-all-trades. I’ve taken technical writing and creative classes. I’ve done my fair share of both. Once I wrote a memo so ‘good’ the bosses posted it as an example of an “effective communication”. In another I wrote a thesis that became a standard at a nearby tech school. Go figure.  It’s ‘saved my life’ sometimes, and certainly comes in handy. I’ve figure more out in my life by writing than any shrink’s psycho-analysis. Writing can be fun. And it can be hard work. Or it can be stressful. Or an answer to a stressful situation . . .

You choose.

Right about it . . . or not.

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