Monday, April 6, 2009

Did You Really Write That?

Okay, I'm gonna show my age. When I was in college (the first time) I took creative writing. The class was so popular that the first time I tried to enroll it was full, so I had to wait until the next semester (Kinda like my four-year-old's soccer league. If you don't register an hour after registration opens, you miss out). I was a journalism major and had some idea that I'd get my degree, give Reader's Digest a call, and become a brilliant columnist who typed (yes, on a manual. Computers were around. There were two in the school's newspaper room but neither my friends nor I had one) a few pages that were published every month and then I'd sit around and by patted on the head (You did read the blog about me being raised an only child?).

Back to topic. I finally got into the creative writing class. For assignments, we were to write 2 - 3 pages stories or poems or whatever and then the teacher would copy them on colored paper and pass them around for the class to read (think poke fun at).

The first time I got an assignment back, the teacher had written across the top: Did you really write this?

He didn't mean it as a compliment. Back in those days, teachers didn't have Google to help them look for plagiarism. He truly thought I'd stolen it. I was young and naive and didn't hit him over the head with my three page science fiction story (I was a big Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams fan back then). I also did not drop. I stayed in the class.

Did you really write this? could have caused me to throw my typewriter out the window (Don't worry, I lived in a bottom floor apartment). It didn't. I actually remember thinking, "When I publish, I'm sending this guy my book!" Unfortunately, by the time I'd published fifteen years had gone by, and I couldn't remember the professor's name.

BTW, a plug for someone I don't know... Thanks to Brandt Dobson, author of Daniel's Den, for the idea for this blog. He put in his bio over at the Christian Fiction's Online Magazine that it was during a creative writing course in college that a professor said,
"You're a good writer. With a little effort and work, you could be a very good writer."

Two examples, very different, but with the same affect: to push someone into writing more. If you're not writing today, for whatever reason, go ahead and renew, and get at least three pages on that manuscipt. You might not get a pat on the head, but you can walk around with your head up high.


  1. Pamela,
    I loved your post today. Writing really is about renewal. We take ordinary words and try to form extraordinary emotions with them. Each time we turn on the Word program we search inside ourselves for the guts to keep going with a story we don’t love as much as we did in its conceptual form. Because life isn’t meant to be easy. God fills us up with strength even when we don’t notice. Thank you, Pamela. I’m glad you wrote this.

  2. A long time ago, I read an interview with Faith Ford. This was during the Murphy Brown years. She said a high school teacher told her she wasn't college material. That one negataive comment spurred her into going to college and proving that instructor wrong. Sometimes renewal in adversity is the strongest kind of renewal. Thanks, Pat, for your comments.

  3. Good story and a wonderful example of what makes writers' tick. I had a high school teacher that encouraged me. I think I need to blog about her!!

    But I also agree with what you said about sometimes adversity spurs us on. I think strong, confident people are that way. Those with less self-esteem would probably just give up.

  4. Interesting to think about self-esteem during my younger years. My memory says I was happy going and just went from one thing to another. I always came back to writing. On the other hand, I had a high school math teacher (algebra) tell me to transfer from his algrebra class to a basic math class. I'm like, "Okay." The basic math class was a box with about 20 folders. Each folder had a math sheet in it. Do the sheet, get a passing grade, go to next folder. I passed the class (by doing the 20 sheets) in two weeks and spent the rest of the semester in study hall.

  5. Pamela,
    Very interesting post. I believe I've had both kinds of feedback--positive and negative--that spurred me on. The negative discouraged me at first, but then I just wanted to show them! I would get published just to prove them wrong.


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