Easy. My great aunt came to mind immediately as I began to write in my girlish scrawl. The page was filled in what seemed like moments. It was always like this. Mrs. Gingrich’s Advanced English class was the highlight of my day. I always knew what to expect. I enjoyed the reading, the discussions, and most of all I loved the writing.
I don’t remember exactly when I realized I loved to write. It was probably in that class. My 7th and 8th grade years were filled with the typical adolescent confusions, but Mrs. Gingrich made those years smoother. She expected nothing less than that we would delve into ourselves and pull out…something. I never quite knew what she wanted us to pull out, but looking back I see that we pulled out creativity and along with it, we grew. The pen always brings out my introspective side. It helps me process the world around me. Mrs. Gingrich made sure that every day that I was in her class, I spent the first 10-15 minutes with that pen.
Her dark curly hair was streaked with silver, a testament to her years of teaching as much as her years of life. Our class may have put a few of those silver strands there. There was that one time when a kid named Mike was goofing around, breakdancing on the floor, when he accidentally kicked one of her large bookshelves. It face-planted on the floor, dumping it’s load of books loudly and scaring Mike half to death as he jumped up and backwards out of the way. But she wasn’t too angry. (Breakdancing, you may ask? Hey, it was 1984. Breakdancing was IT in the Bay Area.)
Next to writing, I was a voracious reader. This is also traced back to that class in junior high, because Mrs. Gingrich assigned two book reports each month on top of our daily writing, our weekly school newspaper articles, and the yearbook layouts we had deadlines for. She knew that good readers made good writers, and that writers needed to be readers. It makes me sad that I never really took the time to get to know her outside of class, because she was one very smart lady.
She would read to the class if we got our work done early, read to us until the bell rang and we shuffled out to the rest of the chaos that was junior high. She read us Poe and Shakespeare, TS Elliot and Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, George Orwell and Jules Verne. She expanded our vocabularies and our minds with good literature, and pushed us to write with these as we would use new tools. Our daily writing was not graded on content, but simply marked as completed. Misspellings and bad grammar were underlined and we were expected to correct them, but each day was a new day.
In high school, my writing turned inward, deeper. Life pain caused me to write the raw, the hurt, sometimes in very repellant ways. Heck, who am I kidding? I wrote to make people angry. My parents mostly, with teachers coming in a close second. Writing something I knew would incense the powers that be gave me great pleasure, even if they never read it. It felt good, almost like revenge.
Writing is like breathing. I write to help me process, think things through, and get those creative thoughts into a form that won’t disappear in five minutes. Mrs. Gingrich knew what she was doing by making us devote the first of our daily time to it.
This question remains: Why do I not write often?