WRITER SCHOOL? Copyright 2004, Michael LaRocca
Here's something from my mailbag. "Dear Michael, do you need to do good in school if you want to be a writer? I stink at school and all my friends laugh at me when I tell them I want to write, but I'm serious." Followed by a sentence or two of "I need your words to encourage me" or some such nonsense.
Fortunately, a writing sample is rarely attached. If it is, either it's excellent or it stinks like rancid yak butter. There's a lot of middle ground in writing world, of course, but for some reason it never seems to accompany these emails.
The message is usually (but not always) so filled with errors that I'm not gonna reprint them here or correct them when I reply lest I destroy some sensitive soul like a jackhammer to an eggshell. (It's ridiculous that I should even have such power, being a stranger and all.) Let's move on to relevant part, question, which actually contains several. This writer gets bonus points for brevity.
Do you have to be good in school? Given what's passing for English in some places, I'd certainly like to see more effort given to school. If you're a student reading this, please try to learn something while you can.
If you aspire to be an author and you did poorly in school, or if you're just plain uneducated, don't let it stop you. What we do as authors isn't taught in school. They teach grammar, and bless them. I can't teach that subject. If you're very fortunate, as I was, you'll stumble across some teachers who teach you how to think. But thinking is beginning of writing, not end, and grammar can be fixed later if you find some long-suffering editor (like me) willing to do it.
In other words, school can help you with first step or two of your journey to be an author. Considering how many steps come after those, don't be discouraged by test results and report cards.
To distill what you think, feel and believe from all trash floating around in your head, and then to actually put that on paper way you mean to put it, is a skill that only comes from years of practice. They don't teach it in school. At least, no school I've ever attended. I struggled at this for 20 years or so after I graduated from college. That's where I learned to write. Not in a classroom.
In my travels through Matrix, I've met blind authors, deaf authors, dyslexic authors, authors writing in a second or third language, authors suffering partial paralysis, authors with various psychoses, authors who deal with more than one of these obstacles. What they overcome makes my complaint, that I'm too left-brained to be in this business, seem absolutely pathetic. And yours, about doing poorly in school.