Friday, June 2, 2017

On Writing - A Student Editorial

Written by: Benjamin Levesque
Edited by: Savannah Burke

     In our recent batch of articles, our writers took a break from the usual format of the Mustang Stampede, and went for a new approach. Due to a current project (which followed the same format), students were given the choice of writing a piece of prose, poetry, comedy, and some chose to present their project research to the readers (see “Research Tag Disclaimer”). We had an amazing turnout for creative stories, whose topics were focused on emotions or alternatively objects selected out of a sack. In addition, we had several of our writers contribute to the Fruit Bowl, a collaboration of poems that revolved around of fruit. A lot of the writers had a fun time changing up the style of their work for the issue, experimenting creatively in a way the Mustang Stampede had never offered previous.

    I contributed as an editor on the issue, editing a group of our writers’ work so that it was prepared for our patrons as best as possible. But whilst serving as an editor, I was simultaneously disappointed that I wasn’t able to insert my own air of creativity into the mix. It would have been interesting to see what I could have done for the Mustang Stampede with my own skills together with my fellow students.

    Without further delay, I should inform you that I call myself a “writer.” I simply enjoy using the craft as an outlet of expression, and (personally) seek to understand its overall value to each of us that I think is often undermined. Of course when I do refer to myself as a writer it implies a distance between those who feel like they don’t (or can’t) write with the passion or enthusiasm I do, but that isn’t at all true. A writer is someone who writes: sometimes for entertainment, oftentimes in daily life, and on the rare occasion -- both. A writer is responsible for communicating information from one person to another through words and language. And for all kinds of people from all walks of life, this isn’t something that can be learned in quick, easy steps or with a magic wand. The value of writing and its essential purpose: to communicate with one another -- to other writers -- must be cultivated over time. In school we learn the in’s and out’s of writing as a function of work and life, generating rules in our minds for proper grammar, spelling, and tense. Throughout the process, we falter and use the wrong “their(?)”, but by high school we begin to see how writing is more than a bundle of letters and laws that get us grades.

    As continue to mature, as students and as writers, we are told to see the themes behind the story; the beauty behind the veil. We learn about the universal ideas that are used in prose and poetry that express what writers feel we need to know. This is what struck me the most when I realized just how expansive our language really was.

    For me, at least, I saw past the drama and rumors of Freshman year and the excessive use of vile words that normally plagued my mind’s eye. All of that was gone, and for the first time in my life I knew that it didn’t matter if I was fifteen years-old. I knew that if we are to express our dreams and hopes and fears and emotions we must have the ability to do so. That was the essential truth of writing. On an alternative level, I found another truth which veered off into the world of the analytical. If I hadn’t already had my sneaking suspicions, I knew very well now that the purpose of learning prose and the ways we explain ourselves is to support yourself. For the writer it wasn’t only about creating characters for their innermost ideas about the world, but it was that those ideas could also be expressed in other ways as well. That any form of writer needed to understand the proper way to show understanding by using every aspect of the language to their advantage. This is especially important in a work or high school setting, in which adults and students alike are challenged daily to understand their role and task and reciprocate that with well-versed logic and interpretation.

    These revelations convinced me that I needed to improve my skill set, and I have worked to do so, but what about the “commoner”? What if you feel that you don’t write well or that you’re writing skills are subpar? Do you feel like you face constant spelling mistakes and rely on spell check and programs like Grammarly to not look like a fool? If you feel this description rings true, the first thing I have to say is this: even “experienced” writers face these problems. Writing is a constant process of learning, and it’s likely that editors of well-published writers will see more mistakes in their client’s work than in yours.

    Marianne Stephenson, head of the English Department at Massabesic High School and author of several published works, has her own experiences with writing. Being a teacher, she says that not a day goes by that doesn’t write something, which is true for nearly everyone. Stephenson says that her best advice for those looking to improve how they write is to learn about the craft by reading. “The more I read, the better I get at writing…” she says. Through reading you may begin to see how your vocabulary can expand and even how your ability to empathize with others becomes stronger. By observing how authors use the craft (and get published for it), you can begin to pick up hints about the use of grammar, spelling, and much more. She also makes an important note on expanding your vocabulary: if you feel that the words you use are limited and invariable, the use of a thesaurus can become a good habit to replace the words you already know for more specific synonyms. Moreover, if you’d like to improve overall the best thing you can possibly do is write. You’ll never expand as a writer (either professionally or for daily life) without the practice necessary for improvement.

    Now that you understand what writing is all about (from the viewpoint of a high-schooler, no less), and you’ve collected bits of advice from a published writer, I’d say it’s high time to get writing.


  1. You are a writer indeed! I liked how you brought in the relationship of reading and writing. Keep up the great work!

  2. Well said! Readers might enjoy listening to Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize acceptance speech/lecture/verse