Writing the awkward

She writes her “e”s backward.  And usually her “3”s.  Her “S”s are centipedes curled in concentric nests.  She’s not concerned about these departures from accepted writing.  I’m trying not to be, either.

Tests are coming in her life.  Tests that will either bring home stickers and smiley faces and A++++s emblazoned on the top of the spelling test.  Handwriting test.  Essay.  Or the tests will bring home dire urges to try harder.  To do better.  The tests are inevitable in life.

I’ve been on the sticker-wielding side of writing for many years.   I’ve given tests.  I’ve urged students to polish, revise, do-over, reach farther, wrangle those strong verbs in line.  I hope I’ve also taught my students a little-discussed secret of writing:  Writing is a powerful drug indeed with no distillation necessary to achieve perfection.  Writing doesn’t have to be polished to be just right for the moment at hand.  An honest scrap of writing sketched to the best of today’s ability?  A++++.

Writing should be forgiving to the writer.  Writing should be an exercise that encourages “e”s  to emerge forward or backward.  To write should be to forgive yourself for not being as good today as you might be tomorrow.  To write is to love yourself enough in the moment to capture your world, wrap it in a hug of words, and save it just as it is for later.  Some pieces of writing may turn out to be the literary equivalent of my sixth-grade school photo: too hideously unbelievable to display, but too hilariously real to throw away.   Chances are, sixth grade photos and backward “e”s won’t stay the same forever.  But who would we be if we didn’t remember and, yes, honor the awkward moments?

I don’t know what she’ll write, or even if she’ll write at all when she’s grown.  She may only ever compose snooze-fests essays in the vein of a cliched high school English class. For now though, I get to watch her illustrate a world of mud fairies, bunnies, rainbows, and “e”s that either circle backward or have ladder rungs of six or seven lines sprouting from a stem.  Let’s not revise any of that just yet.  In her imperfection, she is perfect today.  So I write it, setting free my words like the click of a camera shutter.

This imperfect post is shared with the other unpolished-but-fabulous writers at Five Minute Fridays.

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  1. NIckolee said:

    beautifully written.
    I am a teacher too (or former I guess) we now live in Madagascar as missionaries and I’m doing Montessori preschool with our 2.5 year old – does that count? :)
    so funny that it was in this vein that i almost wrote today – about the mess ups of not tracing letters correctly, of caring less about if it is a “b” or a “d”…I get it and I love it – let’s leave worrying about the tests until much MUCH later :)

    October 4, 2013
  2. NIckolee said:

    oh and sorry but I’m visiting from 5 minute friday :)

    October 4, 2013
  3. Janel said:

    I was at my friend’s house the other day when her elementary age kids were doing their homework. One of the boys had both his ‘s’ and his ‘r’ backwards and internally I hoped that they wouldn’t correct him…that he would see at some point that his went a different way. I don’t recall what happened. I think one of his older sisters said ‘can I correct that’ to his mom and she said no. I remember my brother writing all kinds of interesting shapes for letters when he was growing up. I think its an integral part of learning. I love that you and her are exploring through your writing. I love that each time you record some writing about what has taken place and the journey you are on that you describe it as a ‘shutter snap’ of time. beautiful.. visiting from FMF

    October 4, 2013
  4. Jo said:

    Oh, Amen and Amen! Thank you for backward “e’s” and centipede “s’s”! Unhampered creativity! Great write.

    October 4, 2013
  5. Big Friend said:

    “I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
    guessing at some words while others keep you reading
    and I want to know which words they are.”

    Your beautiful post made me think of Rich’s Atlas of a Difficult World (Dedications)….absolutely wonderful.

    Thank you.

    October 4, 2013

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