I had a teacher (a highschool teacher) tell me once that my opinion didn’t matter. All that mattered was that I could write a good paper. My rebellious streak couldn’t handle that, so I wound up with many a C on my papers because I blatantly refused to not give my opinion when a paper asked for it. My teacher had pretty much instilled in her students that there was a “right” opinion, and any paper differing from that opinion was “wrong”. She never actually said that I was wrong, instead she spent her time lecturing me, telling me that I’d have to rewrite my paper. After a fourth rewrite, she’d tell me that my paper still needed work. Everything about it would be perfect, English has always been my strongest subject, and when she started going on her political tirades during school, I finally realized what I was doing wrong. I wasn’t writing what she wanted; my view was the opposite of hers.
The results of this were rather bad. I’ve never had a high self-esteem to begin with, and being told I was a terrible writer came as a crushing blow to an already pathetic ego. I had given her one of my short stories, which she promptly butchered and told me was awful. She said my lead character was too depressing and cruel. It struck me as somewhat ironic, as the events in the story had all happened to me, and my lead character…he was me.
I started out thinking that I knew what I believed, that I was good at something, then by the end of my highschool career, I was so far in my hole of depression at that point (not because of writing, but a slew of other problems), compounded with all of this talk of how I’d never be a good writer, that when I took my year off I had to spend the time repairing my ego to its former deflated self in order to be able to survive college. And of course, then I was told, college would be different, harder but different. Ha.
The entirety of my schooling (minus highschool), I’d come to believe that I was an okay writer. My stories weren’t the kind that got read in front of class, but they were enough to get me As and Bs on papers. My friends feigned interest in my writing, but soon stopped praising me when I didn’t incorporate them as characters. I was only good when I wrote about them. Otherwise, they told me that didn’t like my stories. I didn’t pay them much mind though, as my elementary school teachers and junior high teachers had always told me that I was an excellent writer. I’ve never been excellent, but I’ve been passable. If you want to know the truth, what I did was never good enough. Someone was always so much better than me. My mother used to say sometimes, “there’s always going to be someone better, just don’t worry about it”. I’d secretly wonder to myself, why can’t I be that person? Why must I always be second? I was never the best at anything, which probably had a lot to do with how I felt about myself. One of my friends wrote so much better than me, another friend was far superior to me at drawing. I was just stuck in the middle, mediocre, never anything more. And I knew I never would be.
Everyone always told me that at college they wanted to hear your opinion. I’d come to the conclusion that the only reason they now supposedly wanted to hear my opinion was that they were sure I’d already been brainwashed enough in highschool to hold the same opinion they did. Oh how wrong they were. My year off had done me some good.
I spent my days of boredom and isolation developing an opinion of the world. An opinion that led me to believe that not only am I not good enough, but the people around me do not hold to that standard either. Sure, I’m a horrible person. I’m self-centered (which is odd considering the self-hatred that runs through my veins), I’m misanthropic, I’m rude when I don’t like someone, my beliefs are so eccentric that even weird people sometimes don’t get me. I’m fucked up, yeah. But I managed to gather enough proof that not only am I an idiot, but I do know a few things, not much, but enough to pull me out of the flock of sheep as a misshapen, mangy wolf. Compared to the other wolves, I am nothing, but at least I am above the sheep. Sounds all rather conceited/inferiority complex, doesn’t it? I really don’t get much how it works either, but I understand it enough to acknowledge that it’s true, and that whatever I do, I will be trapped in this vicious whirlpool until my death.
My novel began during that year, and slowed to a screeching halt, when again, I stopped believing that I had any ability whatsoever. I know now that I will always hate my writing, and it will never be satisfactory, even if I write everyday of my life.
Upon entering college, I immediately was thrown back into the same situation that I’d experienced in highschool: an English teacher that hated my opinions. She was nice enough to tell me I was a good writer, but her grades spoke otherwise. I quickly discovered upon several experiments that there was a trend…. The papers that I had “faked” myself on…had good grades. What do I mean I faked myself? I gave the opposite opinion than what I would normally give. And let’s just say..those papers…they weren’t half as well-organized and put together as the ones where I’d spoken my mind. I knew instantly that this was the game my other teacher had played with me. And again, I decided that I was going to stand by what I believed, even if it meant not getting the grade I wanted. My mom talked to me again, this time telling me that, “just write what she wants you to so that you can get a better grade in the class”. I’ve never been one to bow down to authority, I may have pretended to, sure, but my brain was never in it.
Everyone that spoke in the class was on the teacher’s side, so I wound up being the one person army on the end of the room, responding to each and every comment the enemy made. They’d just sit there and stare at me, dumbfounded that someone had found flaws in their shitty little assumptions and repeated statements made from their servile minds. I hated every one of them. My teacher seemed somewhat taken aback that the youngest person there was also the most outspoken, and she often was forced to admit that I was right about some things. Regardless of my grade (which came out pretty good in the end due to a paper I had to write about my own writing), she hadn’t been mean. She wasn’t the malicious sort of teacher that my highschool one had been. She was genuinely concerned about our writing, and even with her bias, I didn’t completely hate her.
It was good, I guess. Good that in my first round of college I was again confronted with someone who couldn’t keep their opinion out of their grading. It’s strange, because all of that critiquing and nitpicking at my writing probably made me a better writer in the end. That, along with one of the best teachers I’ve ever had (I plan to take more of her classes), an anthropology teacher whose entire class was based upon using facts instead of opinion.
I will never like my writing; it’s a fact I’ve come to face. It will never be what I want it to be. I’ll never be able to write satire like Chuck Palahniuk, I’ll never be the poet like Edgar Allan Poe, I’ll never be a philosopher like Friedrich Nietzsche, I’ll never be able to make religion interesting like Anton LaVey, but I figure that the more I spend trying, I can’t get worse.
I write because I’m stubborn, and I don’t give a shit if it sucks, or if you or I don’t like it. I write because I like to say things that people find disgusting, or that make them uncomfortable. I write because my life is a pile of meaningless garbage and writing gives me something shiny and new that I couldn’t have otherwise. Most of all though, I write because I want to rub it in all of their faces. I want them to know that I don’t care. They can tell me I’m terrible, my books would go straight to the discount bin, or that my characters are too villainous, my plots too dull and uneventful, but I’m still going to write, because I just don’t care.
And on a side-note, I have to say, the talk of college being the place of “freedom of speech”, somewhat true, in the sense that if you have the balls you can get away with saying whatever you want. But just remember: your grade might suffer.