A Literacy Narrative

by Reuben Allik

My Course Did Never Run Smooth*

Reuben Allik


ACT ONE: When the Situation is Not Too Good

  • Writing is all the same
  • Writing must be completed in a set amount of time
  • Writing is easy
  • Writing is hard
  • I am bad at writing
  • Writing skills take no time or effort to improve
  • How I wrote in high school will be exactly how I write in college
  • Writing on little sleep is the most productive writing
  • Writing at the last minute is the most productive writing
  • Writing in my free time is a waste of time
  • Writing will not be important in my career track

I have a hypothesis that spelling is the cause of all my writing woes. Why spelling? I am not the best speller to say the least.

To tell you the truth I have no idea how this hypothesis came to me all I know is that the planning and first draft processes of my writing have always been the most difficult for me. Sometimes I take forever to decide on a topic and sometimes I take forever to figure out how I am going to organize what I am about to write. When drafting, I have rarely been able to handwrite a first draft in a timed setting, let alone have it flow onto paper like I always hear or see other people’s drafts being formed. But back to the spelling.

I have formed my hypothesis based on the fact that my lack of confidence in my spelling early on (as early as first grade) somehow translated into a lack of confidence in my planning. I remember having to stop and check the dictionary in these early stages of my writing career because, even if it was a first draft, I wanted my writing to be as perfect as possible before I moved on. My spelling slowed me down and after many years of this slow planning process always accompanied by a lack of confidence, my writing process has remained slow. So thanks spelling, your difficulty in elementary school made my writing difficult and you are still having a reverberating effect to this day.


Advertisement – Necessities of a Procrastinator

A busy schedule
  • Sports
  • Clubs
  • Not booked every minute of every day but enough you can make yourself think: “Too busy today. I will finish the first draft tomorrow.”
  • TV
  • Phone
  • Computer
  • Videogames
A Netflix subscription
  • “Just one more episode. I will still have time to write that last page”
A calendar/schedule (when convenient)
  • “I will have 5 minutes before classes on October 25. That’ll give me enough time to print. Let’s hope there’s no line”
Real World Testimonial: 

“I’ll be able to do it,” I told myself as I looked at the fast approaching common app essay due dates.

An Excerpt from a Future Play by the Playwright:

Well, this is the third time I am typing my final paper. I found eight spelling mistakes, five formatting errors, and the ink smudged in the third paragraph. Darn typewriters. I hear the click-clack of fingers hitting keys and type bars hitting paper from across the library. I am frustrated that I need to retype but I heard someone in my philosophy class needed to do it five times so I am not too upset. At least I am fortunate enough to have this little machine so I don’t need to write by hand. It is interesting to think how the future will change how people do their class work. Will type writers be controlled by people’s minds? Will something new be invented that solves these problems I am experiencing? Who knows. It’s time to grab some more paper and make sure my ink is all sorted out. Hopefully this will be the last time I type this thing.


ACT TWO: When the Situation Improves

Fourth grade me: Hey me from the future!

Present me: What’s up little Reuben? How’s Mrs. O’Brian treating you?

Fourth grade me: Great! She just got back from maternity leave a month ago and she’s a lot nicer than that sub we had.

Present me: Very true. I remember it like it was yesterday. Anything going well so far in class?

Fourth grade me: Yeah actually there is. Remember how much you hated writing in third grade?

Present me: Yeah of course I do.

Fourth grade me: Well I think I’m starting to figure a lot of it out.

Present me: Like what?

Fourth grade me: I think writing in science has gotten better and I’m even starting to get how to respond to MCAS prompts.

Present me: Oh I hated those.

Fourth grade me: They’re pretty much a… wait how do you say something in math when your adding a lot of stuff together?

Present me: Equation?

Fourth grade me: No, not that. What you give to baby’s?

Present me: Formula?

Fourth grade me: Yeah that’s it. The essays are pretty much a formula. You have your starting sentence, then a quote from the reading, and then what the quote is about. It’s gotten a lot easier.

Present me: They aren’t really essays… more like paragraphs but you’ll learn more when you’re older.

Fourth grade me: Well they’ve gotten easier since last year and I don’t hate writing as much.

Present me: That’s great and its been great talking with you but I’ve got to go. I’m going to miss the bus back to Newton.

Fourth grade me: Wait, what? You live in Newton? Have you seen any of the Camp Chickami people?

Present me: Yeah a few but I’m serious, I need to go.

Fourth grade me: Okay. See you another time.

Present me: Definitely. (Using extreme sarcasm) By the way nice haircut. You definitely shouldn’t cut that mop until freshman year of high school.

Dear Ms. Adams,

Thank you for your insistence that our class practice timed writing assignments whenever possible. It exposed me to something that I now know is one of my weaknesses and gave me a new skill to improve over my four years of college. With my sights set on graduate school, I know I will need to enhance my timed writing abilities for whatever questions are asked on the entrance exams. Luckily, my many years of participation in sports have taught me that if I put my mind to a certain skill that needs improvement, I will be able to do so with practice. Hopefully I will find the necessary resources at BC and when I do I will take full advantage.

Even with all my complaints throughout senior year, I genuinely want to thank you for the experience and I hope to come back to Natick High in four years with stories to tell of how my mastery of timed writing helped me excel with testing and get into the graduate school of my dreams.

I still can feel the pride that accompanied reading my teachers comments on my fifth grade poetry book. I put a lot of time into the piece and I had a good feeling about my work when I turned it in, but I did not expect to feel it to the extent that I did. The unusual part about it was that I was more excited about the comments than the grade I received.

Writing about the outdoors has always held a special place in my heart. Even as I went through a major period of writing hatred and difficulty, writing about my experiences and emotions in nature flowed. Little details would always be present in my mind for that extra descriptive sentence and I would always remember my emotions during different parts of a hike or school nature walk. When I go home on break I may take a bit to see if I still have my nature journals from first through third grade.

*Disclaimer – Title stolen from a line in A Midsummer Nights Dream by pretty well know playwright named William Shakespeare