Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Taking Back My Creativity

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As I read some of my favorite blogs, one thing that strikes me (in addition to some phenomenal photography), is that these bloggers can write. It's more than here's the recipe and this is what it tastes like, which is kinda my approach coming from a technical writing background. It's writing I actually enjoy reading.

I vividly remember writing field journal in college about a squirrel (I was a pre-med biology major). They were awful; we'd have to observe an animal in its natural habitat, then write about it. This was freshmen year in my zoology lab. I wrote about how the squirrel found an acorn, put it in its "bulging" cheek as it "scurried about foraging for more acorns, possibly for winter food supply." I also noted its full, bushy tail, etc. We weren't graded on these journals (thank God) but our lab instructor read them and made corrections. My squirrel log was ripped apart. I didn't need to add what the animal looked like in detail, just note it was a squirrel was part of my feedback. Also, no reason to write how its cheeks "bulged with acorns; a simple squirrel foraged for acorns would suffice. There was more, but I'm sure you get the drift. Thus began my days of technical writing: say what you need to say as succinctly as possible, no "fluff." I became so good at this dull, emotionless writing that, after college, in my science jobs I found myself re-writing SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). I could break down what needed to be done to the bare bones, not a word was wasted.

Since starting this blog I noticed that I was doing the same thing. I remember someone noted how simply put and straight forward my instructions were, how easy to follow. Of course they were: a recipe is just a SOP on a smaller scale.

This comment got me thinking, what happened to my creativity? I used to be a better creative writer. In high school I was selected for AP (advanced placement) English. We were a small group (about 15) where our English class was taught as college course; we even used college textbooks. We even had the option, senior year, to pay to take a test that would give us our college credits for English. In case you're wondering, I declined the test. I knew my schedule would be full of organic chemistry, cell biology, anatomy, etc and I wanted an easy English class to help pad my GPA.

I remember sophomore year of HS we would submit writing portfolios (I believe 5 written papers) at the end of the semester for our grade. My teacher wrote how "blown away" she was by the "feeling and emotion" in my writing. What happened to that girl who sailed her way through these AP classes with straight A's? How did she allow science to beat her down and suck out all her creativity? Is there a way to get it back now that I've been out of the industry for almost 5 years? Or am I doomed to forever stay a technical writer; lifeless and boring?

One of the first writing rules I was taught in HS was that you had to draw your reader in in your first sentence and keep them engaged your first paragraph. Otherwise you've lost him/her forever (ok forever might be a bit dramatic but I'm just making a point here). I'm trying to re-learn that and other lessons on writing. I'm sure the scientist in me will pop up over and over; that would not surprise me given all my years devoted to the scientific field. But I'm trying, I really am. And as my medication dosages decrease, my brain will be able to function and my writing won't be so terse and technical nor will it be the ramblings of a heavily medicated person.

After I feel my writing has improved then it will be photography and food styling that I will set my sights on. The best thing is I'm doing this for me (attempting to regain my creativity) and when I want something defeat is not an option.

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