Friday, May 19, 2017


May Your Ink Never Run Dry

by Camille Jatho

One of the most common phrases you’ll hear in Mr. Antos's first period honors band class is “give the phrases a shape.” In musical terms, that means to change the way the phrase is played dynamically or sing out the parts that should be prominent and shy away from the softer, more lyrical parts. Of course when he says this he’s thinking about getting his students to play like real musicians, but it can really mean so much more. In writing, it’s giving the sentences pinnacles and depressions that can affect the tone of a piece. Emotions evoked or even effectively used statistics or facts can give an effective tone to the writing that may flavor it up. Periodic sentences are a personal favorite of mine. They tend to leave the subject or the main clause of the sentence until the end, almost like a hidden surprise. For example, in “The Death of a Moth” by Annie Dillard, she opens her essay with “I live on Northern Puget Street, in Washington State, alone.” Leaving the word “alone” until the end creates an extra sense of seclusion and emphasizes how it affects her. She gives shape to the sentence by saving the loudest dynamic marking for the end. The simple structure of the sentence allows for a more expressive way to get the message across.

In the time I’ve spent in my AP Language and Composition class, I’ve learned quite a few techniques about writing, but I found that the most important tools needed to write have very little to do with the words and more so with the ideas. While there is no specific structure and formal formatting to everyday writing, it's always beneficial to have those ideas organized. Being able to understand how writing works and what techniques there are allow the ability to utilize them to make the ideas work, because knowing how to write based on the subject is an advantage that can create a connection with the reader.

The structure of an essay, or any type of writing for that matter isn’t necessarily formal in its presentation. In creating a novel, an author won’t create a series of theses and choose the best; rather, they think of what ideas, plots, or events they’d like incorporate them to enhance the story. Structure is informal. Words cannot be plugged into a formula like in math and produce a “perfect” piece of literature. By choosing to think of my ideas before I make a sentence, I could create the order in which I want them to be perceived and how effective the manipulated structure and words can be. Not everything should be monotone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean everything should be sporadic either. Create a pinnacle to the subject to give the work a full dynamic range with contrasts of softness and intensity.

Another important step in the writing process begins before you ever even think of a subject. One cannot become a writer if they are illiterate, right? So the first step is to learn how to write. In order to give those phrases shape, you need to be able to utilize techniques and strategies. Musicians cannot play Mozart if they don’t know how to play their instrument. Basic understanding of language gives knowledge of simple structure, while simply reading more can help teach new vocabulary in an unforced way that will enhance the tone of your passage. Who better to read than a favorite author? Readers can learn plenty of tricks from the masters, without a textbook, while also enjoying themselves.

One of the better parts of reading more books will also be the experience and the emotions that remain after you finish it. The emotional connection or analysis of reason most often leads to creating a memorable experience. The same strategy can be applied to writing. Leaving a subject a little room for interpretation allows the reader to connect with the piece in their own way, making it more memorable to them. I find that the easiest way to do that is by keeping my ideas and words simplistic. In “The Figure a Poem Makes” Robert Frost said, “The possibilities for tunes from the dramatic tones of meaning struck across the rigidity of a limited metre are endless.” The more simplistic the words are, the more room there is for the reader to change and perceive the tone.

One way to make certain that the work is kept simple is to not over analyze it. In a term paper it might be important to make sure that there are no mistakes, but in a free written essay, the more analyzed, the more detailed it becomes. Subjects can become clouded by unnecessary adjectives, over complicating the message and confusing the reader. Allow some “wiggle room” for interpretation. Allow the reader to find their own interesting version of the words.

Up until junior year, the school system teaches their students to create a conformed version of writing. The treacherous five paragraph essay is praised and tweaked until it creates a box so square and cramped around the writer that it chokes any voice and changes the vibrant style to a prison gray. It is assumed that a five paragraph essay is a set outline that gives structure to the looseness of oral language, when in reality it only confines the writer and dulls the subject. I always thought I was decent writer; Never perfect, but well enough to make it through middle school and freshman year with plenty of ease. All thanks to the unchanging walls of the five paragraph essay. My teachers always told me I was an excellent writer, but in all honesty, I wasn’t. I had no creativity and simply followed the prompt because I’m a fairly straight forward person. The realization of its extent only occurred to me once I entered sophomore year in Honors English II with a teacher who saw right through my writing act.

Never in my entire life had I ever received a “B” on any paper. So it came as much of a surprise to me when I actually did. I repeatedly struggled through that class trying to write the perfect five paragraph essay; writing, rewriting and then revising again until I came to the epiphany that I just wasn’t a writer. English would never be my subject.

So, imagine my face the first day of Junior year in AP Lang when our teacher told us everything we’ve learned about perfecting the five paragraph essay was irrelevant. I was ecstatic! Never again would I be forced to rewrite my thesis a thousand times or to make sure that every connection was done with the intentional and precise purpose. Never again would I be confined into the most formal structure of writing.

Up until that moment, I had never known exactly how to free write with a purpose. In my mind there were two different ways to write: creative writing without punctuation and with no end and then the treacherous five paragraph essay. AP Lang began to introduce me to a world of free but structured writing. We often read books on how to write or the effective ways to write. Nonfiction books quickly became some of my favorite reads because I could recognize the similarities that I wrote with. It wasn’t long before my passion for words rekindled and I could write freely again.

The greatest instruction for any writer is to write on a subject that they have a passion for. No matter how well of a writer someone is, if they are not passionate about their subject, it will show. Increased drive will help words flow onto the page and especially by writing about something you care about, others will begin to see it's value and they will read. A writer should never doubt themselves.
I’ve discovered the artistic side of writing that’s sparked me back into the inspiration of words. Interpretation means everything to a reader, so it shouldn’t be over complicated trying to make the message as specific as possible. The beauty of writing is that everyone gets a different experience from it. Above all else, passion is required. If you write on what you love and how special something is, your work will be interesting and people will listen. The techniques and personality play dual roles in writing.

AP Lang has developed me in so many ways. As a writer, I am strong and independent. I feel more confident as I let my pen flow to my paper with a loosely organized plan, taking me where ever I wish to go.

 As long as there is passion for a subject, your ink will never run dry.

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