Ten years ago I was a sophomore in high school and had been one of twenty (or so) students who won the school’s annual essay contest. Being picked meant that you would get the opportunity to follow around and be a city official for the day.
As a student back then, no one really wanted to “win.” The majority of us weren’t too concerned with politics and government just yet, but we understood it was a great opportunity. We would have just preferred for someone else to get that opportunity.
Aside from missing classes and the student government day dinner that night taking over the time that I would have spent doing homework (I remember being grouchy about how late I was up trying to catch up on the work), it wasn’t a bad day at all. Since the police chief himself was away, I hung out with the police captain and then the head detective let me practice in the shooting range. I signed a document that allowed the officers to change their shirt colors for a day, and they gave me a little badge and t-shirt during the dinner that night.
I’m not sure if ironic is the right word to use when one considers that I am a city worker now.
Back then, though, I remember when my English teacher called myself and another student up to his desk to inform us that he was submitting our essays for the contest. I had balked at the idea considering that I did not try very hard at all on my essay, with my sarcasm shining through on sections of it. My teacher apparently loved it and, lo and behold, I was a winner.
Although I had dabbled in writing even ten years ago, most if not all of which was fanfiction for my beloved video games, being a writer wasn’t something that really crossed my mind. Teachers had always enjoyed my writing, if my mother’s recollection of my elementary teachers is anything to go by, and the thought of actually doing something with writing took root in my mind and continued to grow.
My eleventh grade English teacher point-blank told me that I should be writing for the school newspaper after reading a creative writing assignment. In my senior year, my teacher praised how real my writing was for a personal essay assignment.
Throughout the school years, students learn all about the technical rules of writing, but my best grades came from ignoring them and writing like me. My best grades, my best writing, came from using my own voice.
And I think that’s how all writers should write.
What about you? Where were you in your writing ten years ago?