Lessons High School Taught Me About Writing Pt1

High School, or Secondary School depending on where you come from, is a melting pot of hormones and ‘traumatic’ experiences.  People typically divide themselves into two camps where High School is concerned: those that want to forget the whole experience and those for whom it was the best time of their life.

I am oversimplifying things of course but there is a reason why our High School experiences haunt us.  It was a time when most of us became conscious.  It was a time when we started to learn about the wider world, not just in terms of bland facts and figures from a text book but about human nature and what we as humans are capable of.  Most importantly it was a time when we came to know ourselves and loved or despised what we saw (sometimes with equal measure).

I look back now at High school with a mixture of feelings.  Some memories I cringe at and others fill me with pride.  It really was a mixed bag of experiences and a time in my life from which I draw many lessons.  More than a few can be applied to the craft of writing.

DON’T TRY TO FIT IN

This is easier than it sounds.  Peer pressure screamed at us to do what we whatever it took not to stand out from the crowd.  As teenagers our self confidence was often lacking but as a writer the best thing we can do is to be ourselves.

If we amend our style, curb it, mould it, all in a misguided attempt to fit in, we will lose the very character that sets us apart from the crowd.  As a writer this is one aspect of our writing we cannot afford to lose.  Standing out from the crowd and offering a unique perspective and style is exactly what our businesses and clients need.

LISTEN TO THOSE WITH EXPERIENCE

For some of us in High School teachers were the enemy.  And even if things weren’t exactly that dramatic we often still kept our distance.  Teachers just weren’t like us.  Equal parts alien, dogmatic, stern and consoling; adults were confusing.  Often teenage life felt like an ‘us vs adults’ conflict.  Trench warfare comes to mind with epic battles over notions of responsibility and freedom.

The thing is most adults, as we now know, were just trying to help.  Today we have our own experiences and knowledge that we want to pass on to young adults – if only they would listen.

As writers we need to take advantage of this offer and opportunity.  We need to listen to those with writing and blogging experience beyond our own.  Listening can give us an edge over the competition, help us communicate better, and serve our clients more effectively.

DON’T LISTEN TO THOSE WITH EXPERIENCE

Paradoxically we should always consider ignoring the advice offered by those trying to ‘help’ us.  It can often be irrelevant.  Students today operate in a world vastly different to the world I grew up in.

Consider this: habits and knowledge I utilise everyday in my job could be outdated in as little as 5 year’s time.  I can understand why students would ignore my advice on how to approach their lives.

When I was in High School, University was touted by all my teachers as the best way to get a good job.  And yet those who ignored this advice and secured apprenticeships with a trade are earning almost double what I am earning now.

Obviously the size of a wage is only one factor we can judge success by but the point stands.  There is more than one way to approach life because one size does not fit all.  The lesson for writers is to forge our own path rather than follow in the footsteps of others whose paths may no longer be relevant.  Take the advice of others with a grain of salt.

This is just Part 1 in a series on Lessons High School Taught Me About Writing.

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