Off the Cuff

When I was in high school, I took all the English courses I could.  In the literature classes, we read everything from The Grapes of Wrath and For Whom the Bell Tolls, to Emily Dickenson and e.e. cummings, and on to Faustus and Romeo and Juliet (the plays were read aloud in class).

I enjoyed the courses where we read the classics, for the most part.  To be honest, though, I usually only read what was necessary for the upcoming test and mostly skimmed, at that.  I’ve come back to some of them in the last few years to actually read what I missed by skimming (and I STILL don’t care for A Catcher in the Rye), but I haven’t gone back to read any of the poetry . . . it’s just not my thing, I guess.

But the English class I enjoyed the most was creative writing.  No surprise there, since I’m an aspiring mystery author, but it was also the first place I’d ever learned to write in a journal.  Each day, we had to write in our journals for the first five minutes of class.  Sometimes there were suggestions written on the chalkboard, and other times it was just more of a free-flowing train of thought.  I never realized it before, but I now believe Mr. Kutney had us do that so that we could clear our minds of everything that had come before his class, in order to free up the space for our creativity to run around in, and to get those creative juices flowing for whatever the day’s assignment was.

I know we wrote some poetry, and there was an assignment for writing a short story (which I still have in my file cabinet, to maybe be taken out at a later day and improved upon), but there was one assignment I remember more than all the others.

After we’d done our five minutes of journal writing one day, Mr. Kutney told us that he wanted us to write three pages of whatever thought popped into our heads.  Didn’t matter if it was a story, poem, or just more journal-type musings.  All that mattered was that he wanted three pages of it.

I couldn’t think of anything, which was rare for me.  I don’t know if it was some form of stage fright or performance anxiety, but I sat at my desk, staring at my blank pages for several minutes after we were supposed to have begun the assignment.  Eventually, I wrote down the only words floating around my brain: “I can’t think of anything to write today.”

I looked at that sentence for a couple more minutes, then a little voice in my head said Mr. Kutney SAID you could write about anything . . .  So I did.  I wrote about the fact that I had absolutely nothing rolling around in my head at that moment.  I wrote about the anxiety I felt at having nothing, and how I was likening that to writer’s block.  I wrote about my fear that I was going to get a horrible grade on the paper, since I was basically bullshitting my way through the three pages (I don’t think I used the term “bullshitting,” but that was definitely the gist).  As I got near the end of the essay, I wrote about how shocked and happy I was that it all flowed out of me so quickly and easily.

I remembered that particular essay from my high school creative writing course today because I’m sitting here, five hours before this week’s blog is set to be published, and I had nothing prepared; not even an idea in my head.  The week had been hectic, and I hadn’t had a chance before Thursday night at 7:00 pm to work on it.  At one time I had a string of blogs mostly finished and ready to publish, and each Friday, I would sit down and work on one of the next ones; editing it, perfecting it, or maybe even coming up with an idea for another future one.  However, the cache I once had has dwindled down to only one.  I even had that one all scheduled for tomorrow, but hadn’t had any time in this busy week to work on it.  It was nowhere near ready to be read by you all, so I had to crunch my way through something completely off the cuff.

So you’ll hopefully understand and forgive me for whatever horrible grammar mistakes I’ve made in this week’s blog.  I will have definitely looked it over at least twice more before Friday morning, but there’s no guarantee I’ll catch everything.  However, I have successfully bullshitted my way through another “writing assignment,” once again.  I’m not necessarily proud of that–and believe me, I will be working hard to build up another cache of blogs so I’m not so stressed out at the ninth hour–but I AM happy that I was able to meet my desired word count on it.

Oh, and by the way, I received an “A” for that paper about nothing back in high school.  THAT I was proud of.  😉


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Terry Shames
    Nov 15, 2013 @ 09:33:06

    Errors in your blog? Maybe a couple. I read many, many books these days that aren’t written as well as this blog. It’s coherent, with a beginning, middle and end, has well-written sentences that are varied to keep them interesting, the point of view never wobbles, it’s informative, and it’s short and to the point. I give it an A.


  2. HSS
    Nov 16, 2013 @ 11:31:23

    I loved English classes, especially the writing part!! Never had to read Catcher in the Rye luckily – when I tried to read it when I was older I didn’t like it. But Shakespeare, along with Dr. Martin Luther King’s, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, really opened up the world of writing to me. I appreciate the teachers that allowed me to be creative and explore the world of writing. Thanks Alyx for bringing back the good memories of high school. The rest, ugh!!


    • Alyx Morgan
      Nov 16, 2013 @ 16:20:01

      I’m with you, Helen. I didn’t have too many good memories of high school, but the places where I got to be creative–English/Creative Writing; Choir; Art–those were some of my favorites.

      And yeah, maybe I would’ve had to be a teenaged boy to even slightly appreciate Holden’s angst. When I read it (also as an adult) he just sounded like a spoiled, bratty punk.

      Thanks for stopping by today.


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