Elementary school was a time of life when academically, your achievements were noticed by encouragement rather than grades, or at least that’s what I think as a girl in high school. When I was in elementary school our teachers would assign us creative writing, short stories, and art projects. I would thrive on these creative writing assignments, because that’s just how I was as a seven-year-old girl. I was creative and I knew it. I loved these assignments. I set out to be the best writer in my third grade class, and for all I knew, I was. I wanted to receive the teacher’s encouragement. Did I ever receive this “award” of encouragement from my teacher? Most times no, I did not. However, writing as a kid, if I did not receive this encouragement or praise, I would still be happy with my own writing. I was a superhero in my mind. Nothing was impossible and the writing itself excited me.
As I grew older and became a fifth grader — the oldest in the school — thinking I had conquered the world without realizing there was a whole world ahead of me. I continued to write and love it. I wrote with confidence, and no fear failure entered my mind. I was invincible. Putting pencil to paper was my weapon. A few months into my fifth-grade year my teacher, Mrs. Harrington, made the whole class enter into a writing contest. “Alright class I have something very special for you all to do.” I sat on the edge of my seat eager to hear what she had to say.
Mrs. Harrington continued after reaching for a paper to read off of. “Today you will be given an assignment that will be unique from anything we have done before. You are assigned to write a story or a poem of your choice that will be entered into this years ‘“Young Authors”’ writing contest. This will not be for a grade, but I hope you guys will participate.” My face lit up, and I let out a quiet “yes!” This was my chance to show how good I really thought I was.
After school, I was eager for my parents to get home from work. I could not wait to tell them about the exciting assignment, or at least what I thought was exciting. I heard the front door slam, and I knew instantly that my mom was home. She came down the hallway and walked into the kitchen where I was sitting. Before she could speak I energetically blurted out “guess what mom?”. She answered me matching my energetic tone. “What honey?” “I get to write something for a writing contest for school!” After she realized how excited I was over it, she acted if she were excited too. I got started right away.
I chose to write a poem because I felt very inspired by the fresh fall weather that had cast a shadow on the foothills North Carolina. So indeed, I wrote my poem about the seasons of the year. I named it “The Four Seasons.” Now I look back and think it is sort of cliche, but back then I thought I was brilliant. I wrote about each season and the feelings the seasons created within me. I even included a word that I had thought I made up: “scentsy.” Now that I look back on “scentsy” , I realized that it is a word. I just had not been exposed to it, therefore I thought I was a genius for my invented a word. I was the author and I could write anything I wanted. There was no rule of what kind of words I had to use. No requirements to meet. No worry of getting a bad grade.
A week later the teachers had chosen the students who had won from the school. I started to scan the list of fellow classmates who had made it. Some doubt driften into my mind. Am I good enough? Am I just a bad writer? Then I saw my name “Caroline Erkman.” The sight of my name had never given me so much relief before. Joy suddenly hit me as I realized that I had indeed made it. Yet again, I got home even more eager than last time. My parents were surprised and happy for my achievement.
As Christmas started to draw near, my poem had gone as far as the state level, and had been published in a kids book. I felt on top of the world. My family and I had to travel to Raleigh, North Carolina, which is two hours away from my home, to receive my award and the book my poem had been published in. At the award ceremony, they called me to the front stage, and I doubt I have stood so tall in my life. I was definitely one proud fifth-grader.
Now, I wish frequently that I could get that excited about a writing assignment. I do not have that same energetic spirit that motivated me to write some silly poem that had taken me a long way. I do not have that confidence I use to have. As school got harder, so did my head about being decent at writing. Now I realize what made that fifth grader so good at writing was her love for it. It excited her, and that made her achieve things. She had no fear of failure because she did not even consider those possibilities. None of those possibilities were possible at that time. The teachers only expected us to write what we wanted. If I did not do what the teacher asked, I would simply just make my story more creative next time.
I may have never been a good writer, but I use to love writing a lot more. I know I had more confidence towards writing when I was younger. Not because it was easier, anything is as easy as you make it, but because I truly enjoyed it. I struggle to find that love for writing sometimes because formal academic writing has become more of a chore. You analyze prompts, read archives, research on a specific topic, but none of that offers me the ability to show my creativity or my spirit. Almost all of the formal writing assignments do not allow me to provide something to the world that I truly want to show and enjoy showing. However, I still try my hardest to show light through what is required of me. I still try to have confidence, but the word count limits my ability at times. Sometimes when I am sunken in frustration because of academic writing, I reflect on the story of my poem and its moral. It shows me that sometimes you are your own limits, and you can only be as good as you make yourself. If you make academic writing your chore then it will be. But if you find a way to incorporate your own style instead, academic writing will be a leisure.