School essays: a look back

If there ever was a time I thought something along the lines of “It’s definitely not possible for me to ever become a writer”, it was when writing school essays. Today, I’ll share a look back at those times – and why I thought that way.

Now, I can imagine these things work differently in different countries, so a quick summary of how it worked where I live: one essay every half-year with 90 minutes of time for it and three topics to choose from. Length: 1-2 pages of the common size office paper here (A4 – 297x210mm).

Now, these essays had different topics, and even different forms, each time. Sometimes, the forms were more open to creativity. In other times, they were more factual/practical. It’s hard to remember every detail, considering it’s a long time ago (2002-2010).

Of those 90 minutes, the intended way to do it was 5 minutes to chose one of the offered topics, ~45 minutes to ‘draft’ it and then the rest of the time to rewrite it on the official paper, without typos and such. My approach was different…

30 minutes struggling to choose the topic (as I often considered them all very awful), 30 minutes drafting, and 30 minutes final rewrite, hoping I’ll meet the length limit. I was getting creative on that so I chose a few of the longest words and intentionally made mistake in the ‘final’ draft so I had to rewrite the word (and thus waste space). I could only do it 2-3 times per the whole essay to not be too obvious but it worked. Another trick was to increase the spaces between words if the last word on a line was longer and I could just start a new line (as hyphenation was not favored). The fact we were writing it by hand was good because all the abovementioned tricks would not work on a computer…

So, I guess you can imagine the point: I struggled to write a single-page essay. Even though I had the very first concepts of my story already, I just could not see them come to pass ever, because of my experience with essays.

When we add other issues I had (and still have) to the mix, such as my poor imagination when it comes to naming characters, my poor attention to detail (which makes descriptions hard to write for me if I don’t have the ‘subject’ right before me) or the erratic nature of my thoughts, becoming a writer sounded less plausible than flying cars.

Yet, in a weird irony, I actually used a tiny fraction of my story concept in one of the essays one time when it was actually supposed to be a story. It was a single scene that – in another twist – was eventually removed in the fourth actual draft, some 10 years after I’ve written that essay.

There might be more factors involved: e-readers weren’t a thing yet and self-publishing was far from today’s magnitude. Affected by what is taught about writers of the past, it seemed writers were quite the uniform sort: they studied either journalism or linguistics (or something along these lines) and knew since young age they wanted to write. I was pretty much the opposite in every single aspect. In a way, I thought that if I ever touched writing, I’d be considered a disgrace to what being a writer stands for.

Well, times change, I guess. There’s no doubt that e-books and self-publishing was great move for the world of written word and readers are now overwhelmed by choices: there are millions of new books coming out each year.

Ten years ago, I though it more likely to win the lottery than turn my vague concepts into a fully developed story. If anyone told me I might become a writer (or even try that), I’d challenge their sanity. Yet, within a year, this insanity might actually come to pass, as my story is getting close to having the first part done. And, staying true to what I’ve said above, I challenge my own sanity over it.

There’s a saying in my language that fits very much. The (very rough) translation would be something like ‘from rejected bread, the biggest slice’, the meaning being that the more you deny something, the more you’re likely to end up accepting it. A kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, I guess.


So, this is a bit of the story behind my story (what the hell did I just wrote?). There are some more memories and twists related to how I got to writing, and I might share some of them in the future.

Feel free to comment. Have you went through a similar twist?

One thought on “School essays: a look back

  1. Pingback: 6/2019 Writing update | Tomas, the wandering dreamer

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