Do you ever hate writing?
Sometimes, when we get to a writing exercise, a student will groan, “Ugh, I hate writing!” And while Dorothy Parker was being witty when she said it (when wasn’t she being witty?), the students who say this are deadly serious. They’re teenagers (so I’ll admit there’s probably some hyperbole involved), but at least some of them honestly and vehemently dislike writing.
As a professional writer, that’s a hard point of view for me to get my head around. Even when I’m having a bad writing day – when I have to struggle over an hour to get 100 words on the page or days when I use writer’s block as an excuse not to write – I don’t dislike writing that much. I definitely don’t hate it.
Thinking back, I’m not sure that I ever disliked any of my schoolwork as much as they seem to dislike writing. The closest I can think of are things that I was really bad at (or at least much worse at than my classmates). On the other hand, sometimes, I was perfectly ok with being really bad at them and thought it was funny (like home ec…).
I can see that some of the students might be uncomfortable with writing, and that’s why they dislike it. Especially if they have a disorder that makes spelling things or reading difficult. But what about the students who are good at writing who claim they hate it? I’ve had at least 2 of those (that I know of), and they groaned and grumbled every time they had to write something. Then, they’d write something that was exceptional for their age. So what’s the deal?
- Is it boring? (But what homework isn’t?)
- Do they think they’re bad at it?
- Is it simply “uncool” to like writing?
Come to think of it, “It’s boring” is usually the answer I get when a kid tries to explain why he or she hates reading (a tragedy!). But when I think something is boring, I shrug and say it doesn’t interest me. I wouldn’t say that I hate it. Also, when I suggest books with story lines that the kids are honestly interested in, they still don’t try to read any of them, which implies that there’s more to it, right?
So even if they are simply expressing themselves poorly and saying they dislike writing when they really mean that it’s boring (which is very possible), there might be more to the problem. I mean, they’d have to absolutely loathe being bored to hate something just because it’s boring – which is possible but sounds like more effort than most of these kids like to go to.
If I were being cynical, I’d say that’s the key: they don’t like to exert themselves for anything that doesn’t interest them. Which I get but doesn’t really help.
I wish I knew for sure how much they actually dislike writing, how much is wanting to be cool, how much they’re bored, or how much is honestly hatred. I don’t like to think it’s the last one (that’s pretty discouraging when you’re trying to teach them writing). I know I won’t get a straight answer out of the kids (good luck with that), so I guess I’m stuck wondering.
Unless you can explain it – got any insights you want to share with a poor, bewildered writer? Why would someone hate writing?