Have teachers helped or hindered you as a writer?
I always enjoyed doing those creative writing bits in the SATs. Before school got all serious. I think that was an excuse to just get creative for once without getting derided. I once was asked to write about the view from my window, but decided that that was boring, and instead wrote about the view from some crazy alien's spaceship at the edge of the universe. I must have just read the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy series, and I loved that kind of hyperimaginative writing. Adams' ability to just think up crazy alien cultures and inventions is the kind of thing I think the SATs were all about. He clearly loved his writing to bits, had a lot of fun with it, and I think for a while I wanted to be a writer - without actually writing very much. I was about 12 at the time, I suppose. I still have a ~30 page word document entitled "WAR OF THE PI", which was about an incredible fat alien (called P%rk) eating a pie that perpetuates youth, and the adventures of the bizarre aliens trying to rescue the magical custard from P%rk's stomach before it was digested.
I've only shown WAR OF THE PI to one other person, and while he seemed quite enthusiastic, I don't think he actually got past the first page. My hyperactive ramblings which I handed in for the creative description tasks were never particularly well-received, as I always tended to break the boundaries I'd been set, and add some sort of action to the scene. This was my way of telling everyone that there is nothing more boring in literature than a description of something stationary. Yet that seems to have been the only creative writing we were asked to do at school...
I can't remember if I was any good with imagery back then. It's become the focus of my writing these days. Beverly's post today mentioned Sylvia Plath, who is probably my favourite writer ever, just because she uses imagery in a way that could kind of be described as hyperimaginative. Plath's poetry is never straightforward. It requires a lot of imagination to get to grips with: every similie is a long shot, and there's so many connotations carried by every word. Her writing is so dense, and very rewarding. I'm flipping through Ariel right now, and just flicking straight through poems like Lesbos, you can just tell that it somehow sounds so depraved, without necessarily taking everything in. I prefer her earlier poems in terms of meaning, simply because I understand them (mostly), and the Bell Jar is terribly beautiful; but in terms of language, Ariel is her masterpiece.
I guess some of my poems (Major, for instance, which I posted to Message Sent a month or two ago), are directly influenced by Plath. In retrospect I think the poem I did for Olivia (which I finished today) sort of uses that style, too. Free verse, at least. Thanks to my teachers, I never thought poems had to rhyme. I found out enough about literature I guess, but I still felt more inclined towards journalism rather than poetry or prose. I never actually felt compelled to read poetry until I was 16, which isn't that long ago!
You can blame my friends for this exposure to art. At my old school, nobody would have dared to express themselves artfully, (apart from the odd rock band, I suppose). When I moved to my 6th form, I met my friends, and I now feel like I'm part of some bohemian subculture of Sheffield, which is pretty rad! And I love literature so much now that I'm dead set on studying it at university.
Friends are always going to have far much more influence on people than teachers, of course. I think my current teachers are pretty awesome, actually, but of course it's my friends who join in and support my writing. And I have far more freedom than ever before, because I'm friends with the most open-minded people I've ever met. Open-mindedness is, in my opinion, the strongest virtue, and while I previously wanted to be a journalist, people assumed I'd be telling lies about celebrities in the Daily Mail, now I'm a writer, and that can mean whatever the hell I want it to mean.