I remember the day I took the AP English Language and Composition exam in 2019 like it was two years ago. It was argumentative essay time, and the prompt was something no one was expecting: write about something you think is overrated, and explain why.
My nerd brain was about to explode with excitement and inspiration as it screamed, “THE SIMS 4!” And then my student brain was like, no Amanda, shh, calm down, be logical. While I definitely had enough passion and strong points to formulate a well-written essay about The Sims 4, no AP grader would care right? It’s dumb, you’re dumb, don’t write about that.
And so I half-heartedly wrote the most basic essay ever about how success is overrated. After the test I asked like twenty people what they wrote about and literally all but one of them also said “success”. I got a 4 on the exam. I have no clue if my Sims 4 essay could have rewarded me the same good score. But I do know I would have enjoyed writing it more.
For my entire high school career I had never written something I truly WANTED to write, because I was never assigned it. Because in most of my classes, the ultimate goal was to get every student to write the same Correct Essay that made the Correct Points. Grading was really like a checklist. There was no need for passion or voice or LOVE in writing, because there was no reward for it. We were rewarded for getting as close to the Model Essay as possible. An essay that might earn me an A in school could be the most boring, uninspired thing I’ve ever created, but it would get me the grade. And this kind of killed the writer that was starting to grow in me.
And then I took this class and learned a whooole lot!
1. Fun writing is good and worthy and people will like it
I used to think that my academic writing and the writing I enjoy would always be separate. But this semester I learned that my writing can have jokes, and wrong grammar, and videos, and pictures, and doodles, and Capitalized Words for Emphasis, and long lists, and MY VOICE…and still be just as valuable. I can be myself and write the way I want and still be effective and argue well. In fact, it works even better.
I learned that I never need to write something I don’t want to write. I am the writer. I can choose. I don’t need to create something I don’t care about. Because the PASSION makes it so much better. And the passion leaps through the page or screen, and readers enjoy that.
I used to call my actual passion projects dumb, or just a joke. I definitely need to stop that. I put so much love and thought and care into crafting them. They are worthy. They are smart. They are analytical. They are thorough. They are engaging. Every post I’ve written on Medium is a passion project. A teacher or an AP grader might give them an F but that doesn’t mean anything. If I’m really pouring my heart into it, someone out there will want to listen to what I’m saying, and maybe even love it too.
2. I love to write and always have
Writing is so fun. I’ve always had SO MUCH to say. And I love coming up with the funniest, most clever, most impactful ways to say them. Being assigned to write about whatever I want, however I want, has allowed me to blossom. Writing posts on Medium always felt so easy to me because I ENJOYED it! I enjoyed writing about video games, and musical theater, and oppression. It felt cathartic to take all my strong opinions (some I’ve had for a while), and finally organize and craft them into something I’m proud of. I was creating something that I would enjoy reading. Putting my work out there for this class made me remember how fun that is. It made me feel like a third grader writing whatever I wanted every day again.
3. I’m good at writing
Not to toot my own kazoo, but this semester I discovered that I can actually write things I think are objectively pretty good. Things that other people also think are good. All the WPs this semester helped me realize that I’m good at writing because digging deep into myself and my ideas comes super easily to me. I’m vulnerable. I’m emotional. I’m bold. I’m borderline offensive. I had no idea these qualities could make me a powerful writer until I took this class. Getting feedback from Prof. D and my classmates was the first step in helping me realize that I actually can create smart, impactful, funny, convincing pieces of writing. I’m not an amazing writer yet but I really think I can get better and better.
4. I love having an audience and I want to grow it
The first time I had an audience for my writing was when I started to publish Les Miserables fanfiction online. I remember being so passionate about making it really good so tons of people would read it and I would be Tumblr famous or something.
Writing on Medium has brought back that feeling in me for the first time in years. I love it when people read my work. Throughout this semester I found myself texting the link to my Medium posts to my friends, and asking them what they think. I would excitedly tell my classmates in breakout rooms, “you should read my post!!”
Here are some things people have told me about my Medium posts:
“i love so much how this is totallt just like a conversation with you”
“THIS IS AWEEESSOOOOOMMEEEEEEEEE”
“Woah there’s like a lot of variety here”
“Your thoughts and feelings and ideas are so valid”
“I actually cried reading this to tell you the truth.”
Having an audience makes writing so much more exciting to me. I feel giddy and nervous every time I get a Medium notification. I love hearing what people have to say. I love getting feedback. I want lots of people to listen to me. My writing journey in this class helped me reinvigorate that impassioned fanfiction writer in me.
5. I want to write in the future
I definitely thought I was pretty much done with writing at the start of this semester. But this class changed my mind. Writing about things I care about has felt so healthy for me. I love it. I used to think I was bad at writing and everything I made was a stupid silly joke meme. But this semester I learned that my writing really means something. It can touch people. It can make people laugh and it can make them sad. I want to pick up all these scrapped writing-related passion projects and do them.
Things I seriously want to do:
- Write a song I’m really proud of
- Write that Les Miserables webseries I’ve been thinking about for years? Just write it. I don’t need to film it (yet?)
- Start a YouTube channel, make video essays and videos of me just talking about things, do reviews of things (The Sims 4?)
- JUST TRY NEW THINGS AND PUT MYSELF OUT THERE WHO CARES IF IT’S BAD AT FIRST MAN
I LOVE writing and I can’t let myself forget it again. This class helped me start to revive that love after years of it being crushed by the pressure of the Model Essay. I learned that it’s so valuable to be myself in writing. I love to be myself. I just needed to let myself be myself. I’m not dumb, my art isn’t dumb, my voice isn’t dumb, and I can create brilliant things.