Too often we forget why we write. From the time we enter kindergarten, we are subconsciously bombarded with hoops—both behavioral and intellectual. Sit still. Read this book. Don’t poke your neighbor. Raise your hand. Write about such-and-such a topic. Do this worksheet.
Some hoops are helpful. If we don’t learn our ABC’s, we probably won’t get very far in school, but more importantly we won’t be literate. But some hoops are not so helpful. When we are taught that a certain writing process is the best way to successfully produce writing, many students believe this hoopy rubbish and lose focus of the reason we write. They become caught up in the requirements of hopping through the hoop and don’t become writers.
But sometimes hoops are self-imposed. I took AP English my senior year of high school. It was my teacher’s personal crusade to prepare the seniors of Timpanogos High School for the AP exam and college. Admittedly, he did an above-average job, but my attitude turned writing assignments that could have transformed me into a writer into meaningless hoops. Our most frequent assignments were “thought exercises.” Thought exercises were ten sentences each. We chose a short passage from the book we were reading and wrote a paragraph of ten sentences, beginning with a topic sentence, quoting the book, and expounding on a universal theme, literary device, or some other noteworthy element of the writing. We were required to write five thought exercises for every reading assignment we had. This meant that we usually wrote fifty sentences per night. That’s an awful lot for a seventeen-year-old girl who is in five AP classes and drowning in college applications.
But I was a good student. So I wrote those thought exercises. Ten sentences each. Five thought exercises per night. And I improved my writing. But I did not become a writer.
What was missing? Why didn’t I become a writer? Was it a bad assignment? Was my teacher not passionate enough about the subject? Did we read boring literature that didn’t inspire thought? No. It was a well-thought out assignment that allowed for vast amounts of creativity, my teacher had enough passion about that class to last for years to come, and we read some of the most important pieces of literature ever written.
The problem was that I didn’t give a damn.
I didn’t like the class and I didn’t like the assignment. I completed it obligatorily to get an A in the class and get into college. I didn’t do it to explore literature or express my feelings about the complex subjects we were reading about. What I’m trying to say is that the difference between jumping through hoops and really becoming something from the experiences we have and the passages we write is whether or not we give a damn.
So give a damn.
Give a damn about writing.
Don’t just give a damn about writing, but give a damn about the things that will fuel your writing fire and inspire you to create.
Give a damn about your life and those around you.
Notice beauty and give a damn enough to share it with others.
See the ugliness in the world and give a damn enough to write about that.
Write about the things you give a damn about.
Give a damn about becoming a writer and not just going through the motions or jumping through the hoops.
Give a damn.