Writing is Like Riding
I rode horses for seven years. I started horseback riding at the same time that I began school – at the age of six. The process of learning how to ride was slow and most often in the early months when I was learning, my horse and I were attached to the instructor by a lead rope. The better I got at horseback riding, the less I needed to use the lead rope. When I was off of the lead rope, I felt like I could do anything. I was free to gallop wherever I wanted and simply let my thoughts wonder. Every time that I got on the horse the experience was different, and I let it take me where it wanted to go, kind of like writing. At first the writing process is slow, and as a six year old it definitely was frustrating, but when you start to learn the process of writing your opportunities for discovery are limitless.
When I was younger, I loved writing. Letters and words andsentences were my keys to the gate inside of my head, and these keys allowed me to put my pools of strange thoughts and ideas somewhere else other than brain-jail. I loved prompts such as “make a list of everything that you are scared of, and then write a paper about how you will overcome at least one of these fears”. Creative writing was a great way for me to get my brain working, and I still have some of my fun papers today that I like to look back on from time to time. Horseback riding did the same thing for me – I was able to direct energy from inside of my body elsewhere, and it was great not having my freedom tied down, or locked up anymore. As I wrote these stories, I dreamed that one day I would be a famous, well-known author living in riches. I was in elementary school. I had hopes and dreams that revolved around writing. Writing absolutely inspired me.
In fifth grade, I broke my left arm and had to wear a cast for half a year. I was thankful that I didn’t break my right arm, as that would have prohibited me from writing neatly. Unfortunately, when I was horseback riding during this time I was put back on the lead rope. I was bored, and I felt like nobody understood just how free I had become in the years leading up to my sixth year horseback riding. By putting me back on the lead rope I felt as though my freedom was taken away, just as a “precautionary measure”. I hated it. I had to succumb to ride on somebody else’s terms, so that I could satisfy their ideas. That is how I feel about my writing now. I was free, and then all of a sudden I was taught the five-paragraph essay format. I have been stuck on a lead rope ever since, after a while not even remembering what I had been missing.
It was in middle school when my writing was required to be more structured. I was no longer able to write fairy tales, but I had to write on subjects such as Rome, or even more popular, education. In the beginning I was allowed to write creatively about topics, such as my paper from the viewpoint of a lost traveler on the history of Rome. I was in 6th grade and exploring my new writing limitations. Then came 7th grade, when the idea of essays that followed a format came along. Whoa! Writing with organization. At first it did not bother me. It was a new idea, and I loved learning – I always have, so I didn’t mind exploring this new way of writing. I guess I thought that I would always go back to writing creatively, that these structured essays were going to be few and far between. After a few years of following the same exact process though, every single time that I wrote a paper, I was burned out. I eventually accepted the fact that I may never have the possibility to write freely again. I felt poisoned by the five-paragraph essay.
In 8th grade every week we had a new writing assignment toturn in. It had to be 3 pages typed, double spaced, every Friday. We were allowed to pick what we wanted to write about from a list, which sounds exciting, but it was not as freeing as one might think. Although we were allowed to pick what we wrote about and the format of the essay, it was basically an unspoken rule that we should write a five-paragraph essay, you know, to prepare us for high school and everything. We did not know it then, and I am still just learning this now, but from this time period on, from middle school to the end of high school, we were never going to be taken off of the lead rope. Our teachers told us we could be creative, but we were brainwashed on their education carousels, simply tied down by the five-paragraph essay if we wanted to receive good grades.
My junior year of high school, I had the chance to write about activities that I like to do. The structure of the paper was supposed to be a more creative form, nearly poetic. I had been waiting for this day for almost five years, but when it came to actually writing my long-awaited creative paper, I could not write anything. At one point in my life, writing about my passions would have been easy, but it was impossible to think about how to write “creatively” without the idea of a five-paragraph essay nagging at the back of my mind.
Now I am a freshman in college, and my only desire is to learn how to write a real, intellectually well thought out paper. I want to be able to incorporate my own ideas into a paper, and take it where I want it to go, instead of where my thesis statement tells you my paper is going to go. I want to know how to write research papers, expand on ideas, and become a professional literary analyst (ok maybe not, but I would like to become better at analyzing). I am a freshman in college, but instead of feeling invigorated by this statement, I feel lost, and tied down, like an experienced horseback rider attached to a lead rope.
Writing in college is going to be much more than writing an agonizing five-paragraph essay. I should feel freed by this, but after my mind was reconstructed to write in this robot-like format, I realize that I do not know how to write any other way. This is why I chose to compare my essay to horseback riding. Horseback riding and writing are both near and dear to my heart, but when limits were put on how far I could go or how much I could write, I lost my passion for these two activities. I am hoping that in this Writing 100 class, I will once again find my lead rope, and detach myself from the lead rope that has held me back for the past seven years. At first, I might be a little bit lost when I am detached from the rope. I think I will be okay though, as it is part of the learning process to experience failure and be able to learn from your mistakes. It is like the saying goes, “when you fall off a horse, get back on!”. I may make mistakes, but I am hoping to be free again, and to grow from my mistakes, instead of quickly searching for the safety of the lead rope.