Ever since I was 8, I loved basketball. I loved how the ball bounced in my hands. I loved the sound of quick dribbling. I loved the slight screech basketball shoes made a defender was crossed over. I loved the adrenaline rush from stealing a ball and the victory of making the, eternally practiced, left handed lay-up. I loved the dedication of my coaches, yelling because they cared. I didn’t like so much the look of anger when we botched plays up or the yelling that came after repetitive amounts turnovers. Every suicide run, sprints and wall sits we had to do were worth the joy of playing ball.
Basketball was my way of freeing myself from the stresses of school. On the court, I was able to rid myself of tests scores that lowered my GPA and temporarily forget the many assignments waiting for me. Every year I looked forward to the beginning of basketball season. I loved the rigorous Saturday practices because that meant I could become an even better player. I loved leaving the gym drenched in sweat, muscles aching, and being so tired that I would pass out on the car ride home.
Writing is the same way. Dribbling between players is paralleled to the joy of describing a complicated scene you can vividly picture in your head. Swishing that three pointer is like when you add that dramatic dash at the end of the sentence—marking a clear buzzer beater.
For me, playing basketball was a natural talent. Although I was never the best, the motions were instinctive. I could feel the potential the ball had everytime the soft leather would touch my hand as I dribbled. If it was up to me I would play all day; perfecting my dribble, practicing that perfect spin that would result in precise shots, repeating the movements of plays until there was no room for error.
This is how writing is at a young age. Many elementary school students love to write. For them, it is simple. It consists of simply writing down your thoughts. The hatred for writing is mostly cultivated when teachers expect a higher caliber of essays. The fun, creative writing, morphs into technical and constrictive torture. Ideas are suppressed because the student is more worried about pleasing the teacher rather than having fun.
At age 16, the same thing happened to me. After the school hired new basketball coaches, there were a lot of adjustments that needed to be made. Before, I had worked hard so that I could prove to myself that I could make shots in games. I played for me and my teammates. All of this changed when the new coach came.
Fear started to dominate my talents. I overthought every play, every shot, every layup, and every time I touched the ball I was so afraid of messing up that I would avoid being open. This fear was triggered not only by the coaches’ yelling but because I dreaded making mistakes. Mistakes meant that I would no longer get to play for the rest of the game. Mistakes dictated my playing time. So what would be better than messing up? Not messing up. My conclusion was to not create an opportunity for a mistake. My style of playing went from being open to avoiding the ball. If I was never passed the ball, I could not be at fault for any mistakes on offense.
The logic doesn’t seem to make sense right now but the 16 year-old me had made all of the calculations necessary. I knew that my coach would not complain if I played good defense and followed his plays. He would, however, have a fit if I turned over the ball.
Just like my skills dissipated with the new coach, the same thing can happen with writing. Unique rhetoric styles and ideas can be hushed behind a teachers style preference. Constrictive essay prompts can produce boring and mediocre writing. The fear of getting a B can diminish the potential of great writing.
As a student, it is important to remember that we are all writers. There is no need to compare each other’s skills. There is not need to belittle ourselves. We are all writers.
Reflecting back to my 8-year-old self; I played simply because I liked bouncing a ball. The sound, to me, was enticing. With the new coach, my love for basketball, disappeared. Instead of being a stress reliever it transformed into an additional task. Instead of looking forward to games, I dreaded every game we had. I wanted to quit, but just as I was going to give up I realized that I was not going to let one person ruin something that I loved so much. The sport hadn’t changed, just the instruction method.
I decided then I was not going to worry about messing up. That worry had already cost me so much, it had cost me my joy in the game. I was going to play, just because I wanted to, just because it was fun.
That transformation resulted in my performance becoming exponentially better. When I failed, I failed with confidence. It wasn’t because I was trying to avoid making mistakes. Rather it was because I simply failed. By shooing away my fears, the coach, I had previously hated, was finally able to mold me into a better basketball player. Surprisingly, I improved because I became somebody he could work with.
In writing, especially when teachers begin to teach towards a standardized test, you shouldn’t fear failure. Fear will only result in horrible writing. The best approach is to have fun. Temporarily disregard the restrictions and simply let your voice dictate your writing. From that point, it is easy to edit the paper into something that teacher is looking for. This will give the best kind of writing.
Many times we overthink every word that is being said. We seek perfection in our first draft. This is not the goal. The first draft needs to be something genuine, raw, and natural. From there, direction can be instilled. With direction new styles of writing can emerge and what once was mediocre can become outstanding essays.