I have always loved to read. Always. I used to walk down the street reading a book. Actually, sometimes I still do. But the point is that reading is, always has been, and hopefully always will be one of my greatest pleasures.
English class, not so much.
First of all, to clarify: my English class is a literature class. There was briefly some grammar way back in early middle school but ever since then it has been strictly analysis of literature.
I HATED it. To me, it completely ruined the pleasure of reading a book to sit down and poke and prod at every little detail. I didn’t understand where the teachers and the other students were coming from when they talked about character development, or theme, or significance. Nothing.
I mean, looking back at some little things I wrote (I don’t have any of my middle school essays but I have a few paragraph-type things) I did have some sort of clue. There were some valid insights and every so often a teacher had written “good!” in the margin. However hindsight, of course, is 20/20 and at the time I was confused, displeased, and overwhelmed.
That started to change in high school.
I was reading things I liked better. I was starting to get a feel for analysis, and we had frequent “journal entry” assignments that forced me to get some thoughts onto paper even if they weren’t eloquently phrased. There still weren’t very many spontaneous comments in class but I could write an essay that was at least believable, even if it was crap. Then we had a personal essay unit. That made SO much more sense to me. I mean, I was just as confused on the analysis part but I had an instinctive feel for how to write one.
The next year I had a very easygoing teacher, which made me much more inclined to speak up in class. We had more creative writing assignments, which I had enjoyed in the past, and my teacher liked the style of my writing. I was starting to feel better about it.
Then eleventh grade came along. We started out with poetry. I am, in general, much better at analyzing poetry than I am at analyzing prose. My theory is that because poems are so much shorter and more tightly constructed, every word and any variation has meaning. You can ask why a comma is where it is, whereas in a work of fiction that would for the most part be absurd. We had frequent short analytical papers, which polished up my skills very quickly. My teacher was extremely clear and gave helpful comments. We read material I was fascinated with. I started writing things in my notebooks, copying style. I became fascinated with how writing was constructed. I enjoyed English class.
I got my best grade on my English exam.
I will repeat that, because that just DOES NOT HAPPEN. I am a science girl. I do very well in sciences, get good grades on science tests and exams. I DID BETTER IN ENGLISH than I did in Biology.
I have a very complicated relationship with English now. I love writing. I want to write, even if it is just for myself and never makes it to publication or even to an agent’s desk. I love reading, both for pleasure and for analysis. Well, I enjoy reading for pleasure better, but if I can do both that is fantastic. I still dislike writing analytical papers.
Last year, or two years ago, my rehearsal director (for a Nutcracker production) asked me whether I was going to the company’s annual benefit. I replied that I was not, as I had to go home and write an English essay. I believe there was some grimacing involved. She laughed and said teasingly, “I assume you won’t be following my path and becoming a writer, then,” or something along those lines. I responded in the negative.
Now I’m writing a novel. Go figure.