For as long as I remember, I wanted to be unique. When it came to school, being unique meant doing the best in class, and to do the best meant doing what the teacher asked. Because of this, I became extremely good at understanding what teachers looked for: I actively participated in math classes, I focused on seeing connections in history classes, I learned what to say in Bible class, and I wrote the way the teacher would have liked.
To write the way the teacher liked meant not doing the typical essays, especially the typical “guy” essays. You know, the depictions of triumphant sport stories or silly acts of machismo. It was easy to tell who wrote these types of stories, and it was very clear my english teachers were never impressed or pleased when they received a story from them, so I learned to avoid that style like the plague.
It’s not that I didn’t want to write any of those stories; with my experiences on different sports teams and my own stupidity, I have plenty of typical, yet entertaining, “guy” stories that I could write about. There were certainly many times that I wanted to write about them. But they were not stories that I felt I could write. They were stories associated with “those types of guys”, the ones that didn’t do well, that weren’t unique, and that always seemed like they didn’t care about writing.
Lad Tobin captures this struggle of the typical “guy” writing style in his essay, “Car Wrecks, Baseball Caps, and Man-to-Man Defense: The Personal Narratives of Adolescent Males”. I certainly am guilty of stereotyping these types of stories, and always assumed that there was nothing truly beneficial or unique about them.
However, as I continue to grow in my understanding of the intricacies of writing, I’m slowly beginning to understand that everything I think I know is not the truth. There are many styles that are fantastic and invaluable at communicating thoughts and messages, and for me to make blatant assumptions about any of those styles is robbing people of a potentially effective story.