Writer Wednesday: Why Should I Care?

I had a history teacher in high school that changed my life.

Mr. Taylor was awesome. He came to class in suits of armor and built trebuchets in his backyard (for fun). He once gave my class broomsticks and taught us how to fight in a Spartan-style phalanx. He played the Rolling Stones during study time because he could, and because it helped.

I met Mr. Taylor in my sophomore year, and by that time I had already developed a loathing for school. Even despite cool subject matter, most teachers just failed to engage my imagination. I didn’t want to pay attention. I didn’t want to care.

Mr. Taylor was different. He had me interested in day one.

After he introduced himself to us, he put up a Powerpoint presentation on his class’ curriculum. Nearby, a girl was feverishly taking notes. About two slides in, Mr. Taylor walked over to the girl and closed her notebook. She stared at him, bewildered. I laughed along with the rest of the class.

“If your notes are more interesting than my voice, I must be terrible at my job,” he said.

I hung on his every word for the next three years.

As a much older man, now, I look back on Mr. Taylor and wonder what it was about him that made him so interesting. I’ve had other history teachers that covered generally the same material. But no one delivered it like Mr. Taylor—even the ones who were excited about teaching.

Why?

Mr. Taylor loved what he taught. Sure, he cared about his students and he wanted us all to succeed. But, more importantly, he wanted us all to love history as much as he did, because history made him happy. History inspired him. History was a glorious, beautiful gift that he wanted to give to us all. 

As writers, we need to be like Mr. Taylor. If you want to write something amazing, you need to write about something you find amazing. If you want people to fall in love with your work, you have to write about things that make you fall in love.

Boring history teachers say, “Europe’s medieval era was known for its knights and its castles. Political intrigue was high, and blah blah blobbity blah.”

Mr. Taylor says, “Hyahh!” as he storms into the room wearing armor and carrying a longsword. Then he passes around the sword, and he shows off the armor, and he jokes about how it makes his butt sweat. (Yeah, that really happened.)

If you don’t care about your writing, how can you expect other people to care? More importantly: how can you expect to finish it? We start getting blocked up when we don’t care about a project, because we say, “I’ve written ten pages of this garbage and I just can’t imagine doing a hundred more. Forget this.”

Then we go eat ice cream and sob ourselves to sleep because we think we’re terrible writers.

We aren’t terrible! We just aren’t excited!

Nobody who has ever talked about what they love has ever done so boringly. Remember that. Write what you think is the coolest, or the sexiest, or the most horrifying. Write what moves you, and you’ll find the words sort of do the work on their own.

Don’t be afraid. Be a nerd. Be like Mr. Taylor.

Note: A very special thank you to Mr. Taylor for inspiring me all those years ago. I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done. I hope life finds you well, and I hope your sword is still sharp.

– R. 

Ronin is a nerd about the martial arts, traveling, and writing. This blog is his sweaty suit of armor. He posts something on Tumblr, WordPress, and Facebook every single day. He makes videos on Friday, and you can watch them on Youtube.

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Teach peace. 

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