Monday, June 6, 2011

Unschool Monday : Pen License

I have a shocking confession to make, a secret shame I can no longer keep secret. I am a published writer who....NEVER EARNED HER PEN LICENSE!

Image source
It's true, it's true *hangs head* I've been running around calling myself a writer, sneaking my unlicensed works into respected publications. "How did this happen?" you ask. To make sense of my tale of deceit I must take you back to a time when I looked like this:


1991. I was in grade 3 at school. In the early years of primary school students were permitted to write with greylead pencils. I assume this was so that mistakes could be erased easily, as we learned to write. But come grade 3 it was expected that students progress to ballpoint pens. 

It was not for students to decide when working in pen felt right to them. There was a licensing system imposed by teachers. I watched my peers progress to pen, oh how their pages sparkled with class compared to my juvenile greylead covered papers.

The details I remember about the test include: we had to display hand writing of a standard deemed "good" by our teacher and we had to hold our pencil a particular way. I could do neither. What I found particularly frustrating about this licensing business was that I knew from my writing at home that my handwriting was much more impessive in pen than pencil. But the teacher would not allow me to demonstrate this.A pen license was something you earned in pencil, you see. Much like a car license is something you earn on a bike...huh?

My teacher and my parents worked hard to try to make my hand writing "better" and to get my fingers and hand to contort in the way they told me was "right". But it felt wrong to me, it hurt my hand and it slowed me down. I had many thoughts, so many stories, that I had to get onto the page as fast as they came. I had no interest in being slow. I also had no interest in pain. And frankly, they were being snooty. I could read my writing and they could too, it just wasn't as legible as others. But I have always quite liked that.

I never wanted my unfinished pieces read, I preferred to read them to my audience. "Bad" hand writing is quite good for an artiste with this goal in mind. I never had to worry about being mixed up in one of those cheating fiascos because no one was going to be able to copy my work :D And when it came to my uni days, my handwriting protected my personal impressions of lectures from being read by anyone sitting beside or behind me.

Eventually my parents and teachers gave up trying to tame my wild pencil. I took matters into my own hands and once every other student in grade 3 was working in pen, I managed to slip under the radar.

Something my parents and teachers could not predict was the role computers would play in the future. My hand writing was never going to stand between me and employment or publication. What a lot of time and energy was wasted on this licensing business! 

Who knows how the world might change between now and when my children are grown? There will no doubt be plenty of things I will worry about and want to "correct" for the sake of their future happiness, that will turn out to be completely unnecessary. If I trust in their judgment I'm sure to save us all a lot of stress and I won't waste my time, as my parents and teachers did.



Sazz is a writer who found love with another unlicensed pen user, who found employment as a public servant. Together they are unschooling their two daughters, the eldest (3 years) frequently writes in pen. Sarah no longer wears heart shaped glasses.


I'm joining in Owlet's Unschool Monday

3 comments:

Angelfish said...

That is funny but horrible.

I have a terrible confession to make, though. Not only was I the first person in my class to get my Pen License, but I was also extremely proud of this fact! (Which is about as tragic as your experience, though in a different way.)

Jo said...

Why does this not surprise me, Angelfish! ha ha!!

Ah, I am the published writer who doesn't know a noun from a verb from an adjective...

It's all such a load of BS! Great post - i'm glad we didn't have the pen license in the UK, i'd have never got it...at my school we had to write with ink pens, and i was forever smudging mine with my sleeve or something!

Sarah Patricia said...

Ah Jo, the difference between verbs and nouns was taught to me by a smart arse t-shirt I gave my huz one year. It said:
"I'm so adjective I verb nouns"
You're welcome!