The Writing Roadblock
I have finally started Welcome to Night Vale. This book has been on my TBR for an insane amount of time. About a fourth of the way through I had a flashback to one of the first things that I wrote in 3rd grade. It was a lot like Night Vale. Impressive for a 3rd grader, I know. It was this weird science fiction story about cats barking and dogs meowing. I remember being so proud of it. It was the one and only time I volunteered to read my work.
No one got it.
My teacher gave me a C.
I did not understand why no one thought it was as brilliant as I thought it was. The grade viscerally hurt. What was even worse, there was no feedback. Not even corrections on spelling or punctuation. Just the grade written in red ink at the top of the first page. My 3rd grade teacher was the opposite of what you expect a third grade teacher to be. She wasn’t well liked, and I am pretty sure she didn’t like her students much either. The C made me like her even less.
Also, about a fourth of the way through Welcome to Night Vale I realized that this was one of those type books you either got or you didn’t. I am sure there are people who have picked it up, started reading, and thought something along the lines of “This is stupid.” or “I don’t get it.” It really takes a certain sense of humor to appreciate the book. Welcome to Night Vale is the epitome of my sense of humor. I’m actually upset I didn’t think of it myself.
That is neither here nor there though. The bad grade on my story didn’t stop me from writing. I know a C isn’t really a bad grade, but it felt like a bad grade. It still feels like a bad grade. I just stopped sharing what I wrote. A couple years later someone got a hold of a story I wrote about being a 6th grader and it had some of the teachers in it. We got in trouble for selling copies of it at recess to pay photocopying costs. One of the teachers who was in the story got a hold of it.
All he said to me was “You should write satire.” I didn’t even know what satire was at the time, but apparently I wrote it and wrote it well. At least for a 6th grader.
The following few years friends and I would collaborate on writing stories in spiral notebooks about us and our friends. Some of them were Scooby-doo-esque. Others were just and excuse to use every funny line we heard in a TV show or movie. I wrote some short stories for the school newspaper. One of my stories I got upset about because the teacher in charge of the paper rewrote the ending, without telling me she was doing it, where it would fit on one piece of paper.
I wrote something else and asked one of the English teachers to read it and give me feedback. She refused. I don’t remember what she said to me but I remember how her words made me feel. It wasn’t a simple, “Hey, I don’t have time”. That would have been fine. She said something that made me ashamed for asking, something that made me feel like I shouldn’t be writing.
I didn’t write again for a long time.
I would start things and never finish them. Often throwing them out. I didn’t know what I thought about writing anymore. I had ideas but maybe I lacked follow through. Maybe I thought I would never be a writer so why bother. Maybe I thought no one would read anything I wrote so it didn’t matter.
What I know now is I lacked the encouragement that kids needed to turn their hobbies into something more. Despite graduating with honors from a 4 year English program concentrating in creative writing, and being told that my writing was good enough to be published, I still can’t shake how those moments as a child made me feel. It’s nostalgia, only negative. The kind of nostalgia that would happen in Night Vale with no explanation.