All of my high school English teachers taught me to analyze anything and everything. They've taught me how to nitpick an entire passage about the New York skyline in The Great Gatsby, and how to criticize the role of women in Hard Times. Their essays and projects developed my writing into concise, complex pieces of work. While I'm grateful that my teachers helped me improve as a writer and a reader, my passions for pleasure reading and creative writing have vanished.
By spending so much time scrutinizing the brilliant works of Hemingway, Shakespeare and John Knowles, I've lost the ability to read and write for fun. My brain has been so overworked that when I'm not in school, it goes on hiatus. Every time I have an idea of a short story or wanted to dust off an old book from my shelf, I can't do it. What once came so natural to me was now so difficult.
How was this possible? I had severe writer's block and reader's block. Is reader's block even a real thing?
This wasn't a problem freshman or sophomore year. But by the time I started my senior year, I realized I couldn't enjoy these past times when I scored some free books. Nectar in a Sieve and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn sounded so interesting, yet I couldn't get past the cover. When the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards were accepting admissions, I didn't submit anything. In the past, I received Honorable Mention and a Silver Key in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Did high school destroy my creativity? Maybe. The assignments at least hinder that part of my brain. When you have to argue why characters in Ethan Frome and Age of Innocence cannot chase after their dreams without social disapproval and moral conflict and society punishes them, and it has to be fewer than three pages, your brain gets fried. Sure, you use creativity to fudge the margins. You can use it to reword your thesis at 2:00 a.m. By then, any ounce of imagination left has been used.
Because of the severity of my problem, I'm using my summer to reprogram my brain. If I don't relearn how to read and write for fun, I might trick myself into hating writing in general. Sounds unlikely, but I want to pass on my love for both activities to others. After all, you have to practice what you preach.
My plan is to read all of those abandoned books in my room and finish the novel that may never get published. I want to read Huckleberry Finn while soaking up the sun. I want to say I wrote a 200-page creative story. I'll take the analytical skills I've learned from my teachers and apply it to this summertime learning experience. Just without the discussion of Realism or transcendentalism.