I wish I had this teacher as my freshman English teacher in high school.
This is not to disparage the woman who was my freshman English teacher, but to be honest, I had been extremely intimidated by her. She was the quintessential southern woman with the sharp nails, coiffed hair, and cool eyes. She made everyone read a kazillion books over the summer and memorize forty vocabulary words each week. If she had been my introduction to English, I would have been scared off the language.
She only gave us two opportunities for “free reign”–to do book reports on a biography and a fiction book of our choice. Of course, it had to be approved by her so I felt like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I had to pick something relatively serious or she would look down her aquiline nose and say in that thick southern drawl of hers, “Pick something else.” I chose an incredibly large tome about Thomas Edison and The Phantom of the Opera (located, predictably enough, on the classics shelf of the bookstore).
Those weren’t bad books by a long shot, but only now do I wish that at the time I had the gumption to pick something I wanted to read and then write about.
It was probably because of that rigid structure for English class that I started up a secret writing life that I told nobody about. There was plenty of homework, but I would do it all at school. At home, I would write my own stories on yellow legal pads, loose-leaf notebook paper, and the primitive word processor on my Dad’s computer. I think I finished my first fantasy novella sometime that year–it was thirty or forty pages single spaced.
This proved that I could do something myself but then I also realized that it would never be accepted by the establishment that my freshman English teacher represented. And even after her, writing professors had always set restrictions and conditions on what students could or could not write.
It’s very human to want to be accepted for one’s own work. But in reality, I find myself toiling in a vacuum. If only I had some sort of mentor like the teacher in the link who cared that I could write whatever I wanted. Maybe then I wouldn’t have such low morale every time I started a new writing project.