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Taking the Risk – Rebecca

June 13, 2011

I love to read, I love to write, I love to talk. The English language has always been my area of expertise, what I have always been ‘known for’. From the age of three, I was taught to introduce myself saying, “Hi, my name is Rebecca and I am an incessant chatterbox!” I took pride in my abilities to conjure up stories of magical lands, or quote entire passages from books well beyond my years. But as I grew older, that pride and passion started to fade. I didn’t have as much time to read, I became self-conscious about speaking in front of others and what they would think of me, and I was scared to write. Scared because I didn’t think it was good enough. What used to be a fountain of open creativity, not caring whether or not it made sense at first, became long, tedious hours of searching through dictionaries and thesauruses, checking every spelling, every word, every punctuation mark.

In Grade 9, joining Talons, I was no longer the best writer, the most avid reader, or even the best speaker. There were others with more eloquent words and more persuasive arguments. At first I took it as motivation to improve, increasing my standards. But soon enough I shut down. I still wrote and read and spoke, but I no longer cared about being the best, and I stopped trying to be better.

As depressing and woeful as that may all sound (and I’ll admit, it probably wasn’t as bad as I may try to portray it as being), I did lose my drive to succeed. And it sucked.

Mr. Jackson offered five students, myself included, the chance to earn credit for English 11 in our Grade 10 year. It meant being more involved, being more of a leader, and demonstrating a higher ability in our work. To be honest, although there was no question that I was going to do it, I’m not sure I really wanted to. My effort and the quality of my work had been slipping, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit to even more work. But I did, and it may well have been what saved me (metaphorically, that is; like I said, it’s not quite the end of the world yet).

The English 10 provincial wasn’t difficult, but I wasn’t really motivated, and I’m sure my essay could have been a thousand times better if I had made use of the time I had left. I still did well, but I definitely wallowed in self-pity for at least a little while. Then, as an English 11 student now, we wrote our This I Believe essays. I found that particular exercise to be extremely difficult. I didn’t have anything heart wrenching to write about; my life would not make a very exciting movie. And at the time, it seemed like everyone else did. So I didn’t feel like my writing was good enough, because my story wasn’t good enough. But Mr. Jackson took a chainsaw to it, ripped it to shreds (not quite that violently), and told me to piece it back together myself. It worked. The story was still the same, the writing was not even that much different, but I had to confidence I needed, knowing that it was at least ‘acceptable’ writing.

I don’t know why that meant so much to me, but after that essay, I think I did start writing more. I got back into finding time for free writes, and I started waking up in the middle of the night to write down ideas in the notebook on my bedside table that had been neglected for almost a year.

All through the month of May, I managed the Talons class blog, this blog, by editing and publishing work by other students. Few were signed up to write in May, so many days still needed a post, giving me reason to blog more myself, as well as reading others’ blogs to find more material. Editing others’ work proved to be much more difficult than editing my own. I often spend more time editing and changing my work than I do writing it in the first place. Everything needs to be perfect in my eyes before anyone else can see it. But when changing someone else’s writing, there is only so much you can do. You can’t make it yours. Writing is an art form, and it has to retain its identity, the creative stamp of its original author. So while editing posts for the class blog, I would fix spelling and punctuation, make a few minor grammatical changes, and little else. If needed, I might talk with the author about taking out a paragraph or two, or expanding on an idea to add a bit more. But I can’t make it my own writing; it still has to be the same communication of ideas that it was when someone first put their fingers to a keyboard. I know that this, what I write now to be posted, will be looked over by someone else’s eyes. Changes will be made before it is put out for the public. I don’t plan on editing much; there will probably be lots to change. But it will still be mine, and mine only.

I’m not really sure what all of this means, but I have a feeling it’s important. I didn’t want to take risks. I was scared to challenge myself in fear of failure. But although I might still be hiding a little, I have a feeling my bubble of security is more transparent now. Thanks to those who pushed me just a little more to succeed, I let myself go, just a bit, and started doing what I love again. Because no matter how good or bad you are at something, if you love doing it, it doesn’t matter in the slightest.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. cdyard permalink
    June 15, 2011 5:36 pm

    “I didn’t want to take risks. I was scared to challenge myself in fear of failure.”
    How I can relate to this! Writing became a chore because of my fear of failure. What’s more, it took me a long time to write in English (I’m French) because I was afraid I would make mistakes.
    But you’re right, it doesn’t matter if I make mistake, as long as they’re honest ones; and it doesn’t matter if my novels are not good enough to get published. I love the English language and I love writing.

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