I was pretty bad at academic writing when I started college, which was hard on my ego. I mean, I’d published a book and stuff, how dare my teachers make notes in the margins of my papers telling me to take a writing class?
Still, being of a practical frame of mind, I signed up for an entry-level writing class the next term.
Our first paper was supposed to be an essay about “the worst job I’ve ever had.” I wrote something clever and funny, and brought the rough draft to class to get critiqued. I think the idea was to get into small groups and critique each others’ papers, but as the teacher wandered from group to group giving helpful hints he decided to grab my paper and read the first paragraph out loud.
Oh no. My paper was not funny and interesting as I had previously thought. It was, instead, vague and confusing. At least, the first paragraph was. That’s all he read before flippantly dismissing it, and I went home with my writer ego a squashed mess.
I ranted to my mom about it over a cup of tea.
“I once had a writing teacher who absolutely tore my work to shreds in front of the whole class,” she said. “Then when I became a successful writer I saw him again, and he praised my work up and down, and I felt vindicated.”
After I got over the sting of criticism, I re-wrote the first paragraph to be less vague and confusing. The next class session, my teacher immediately came up to me. “Emily! I’m so sorry last class ended before I had a chance to critique your paper!”
“Um, yeah, well I guess the beginning was kinda confusing so I changed it,” I said, tentatively handing my paper to him.
He began reading it. “Yeah, this is great. This makes so much more sense.”
My writer ego scabbed over nicely.
Today, five years and several colleges later, I was finished with class and walking back to my car when someone yelled at me from across the street. “Hey, it’s the girl in the red rubber boots!”
I laughed as my former writing teacher crossed the street and came up to me, shaking my hands as if I were the celebrity and he was a fan. “I love your blog!” he said.
Mwa ha ha ha ha, vindication at last.