How Do I Love Thee? Part III

I’ve never not been a writer.

But when I was a young writer, I didn’t have the same…voice.  Maybe everyone goes through that — maybe voice isn’t natural, rather it is something that grows and changes; develops over time.  For me, writing has always been personal and observational.  My fiction is fine, but I don’t enjoy writing it nearly as much as I like to write about what I see.

However, when you’re afraid of seeing yourself, and of being Seen, it is much harder to write authentically from the point of view of the Observer.

Over the years, I’ve had a number of good-to-great teachers who took me and my writing seriously.  They fed me books; they served as my editors and my champions.  They wrote me notes and encouraged me when I was ready to abandon what I was doing.

I was, I think, in 8th grade, when I’d written another forgettable essay for an assignment.  But even when I was not on the mark creatively, my work was typically technically good.  I had always been an A student, and when the essay came back graded, this was what I found:


I’d had a close relationship with the teacher, who was fun, and funny, and quirky.  She was generally well-liked by students.  And she gave me a lot of room in which to be creative.  I didn’t always take it — at least, as fully as I could’ve or should’ve.

At the time, I pulled her note off the corner of the assignment, unsure of what to make of it.  She was saying what I knew was true about my work — but was she right about me?  Was I beautiful, funny (and somewhere inside) truly caring and concerned?

So I analysed my feelings on the teacher’s message to me in my journal, followed up by this gem: Tomorrow is the 8th grade dance, and I really want to go, but I am pretending I don’t so I have something to complain about.

(If nothing else can be said about me, I am and always have been honest with myself.)

Many years have passed since I wrote that essay — I don’t even remember what the assignment was about.  But I’ve kept the note close to my heart all this time.  As a writer, I don’t think I ever forget the people who have pushed me; made me smoother or sharper; slicker; sleeker.  And as a human being, there is no moment where I do not remember the people who have given me those fundamental bits of encouragement along the way.

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