((Note: This does not refer to the differences between creative writings and essay/report writing, just the distinction between voluntary and assigned writing.))
Everyone writes. There’s no exception to this anymore, not with education being offered and required all over the world. However, the fact that everyone writes does not mean that everyone is a writer. A writer enjoys her work. She writes because it is an action that engages her mind in a pleasing fashion (yes, even when we’re crying over having to kill off a character, it is still a pleasurable act. We are sadistic creatures). She chooses to write and probably does so frequently. When other people see a writer constantly putting pen to paper, they naturally assume that said writer is a freak of nature and enjoys writing anything and everything. Thus, it’s unheard of for a writer to dislike writing for assignments. After all, we writers are so addicted to the written word, we’ll write anything. Right?
Writers are finicky. We write when, where, and what we want to write, and sometimes we still don’t do so (no, I don’t understand it either). With an assignment, all of those choices a writer cherishes are suddenly stripped away. The teacher chooses everything. Subject. Due date. Format. When you can and can’t work on the assignment in class. Depending on your grade level and the teacher’s leniency, you have to deal with content and length limitations. And in the back of your mind, there’s always that hovering knowledge that you have write something with a standard good enough to get a good grade, instead of writing something that you think is good. The work becomes stifling and boring. It’s not something you love, and that shows very clearly in the finished product.
Of course, a non-writer might not understand this distinction. It’s all writing; it should be fun for a writer. Your non-writerly friends might sneer disbelievingly or brush off your comments when you talk about how much you dislike the assignment or can’t get motivated. You’re a writer. You’re not allowed to complain about writing. Ever. Well, when this happens, you can feel free to tell them it’s just as hard, if not harder, for you to write for an assignment than it is for them. I’ll tell you why.
Non-writers have spent their whole academic lives learning how to write in exactly the way that their teachers expect them to write. They don’t have to juggle the way they know how to write with the way they like to write. Writers do. We have expanded our writing abilities and habits beyond what is required in an academic setting. We know different styles and techniques of writing. We address different subjects in different ways. We have experience writing in a setting where we are the ones to determine our writing. While non-writers must rise to the challenge of an assignment, we writers must instead stoop, twist, and bend over backwards to stay inside the limits of these same assignments.
Writers have learned to think and live outside the written box. Non-writers think and live within it. While they learn to grow and stretch to fill that box, we must constrict ourselves to stay inside it.
It’s hard. Of course it is. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Just like we practice writing for ourselves, perhaps we should practice writing for assignments as well. Give yourself an assigned writing. Plan the due date, the genre, and the level of maturity (cursing, violence, gore, sex, etc.). If you get used to writing for your own limitations, then it will be easier to write for your school’s limitations. That’s not to say you should make all your writing assigned; just make some of them assigned. But a good balance between limited and unlimited writing will develop your abilities more widely than if you only write without limitations.
Here’s an assignment for you to get started:
Time Limit: Two weeks
Happy writing, everyone.