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.