The master and the apprentice

I commiserate with Luke Skywalker.

In 1st grade, I was terrified to string a series of original words together. I preferred to copy out of a book or to use my parents' suggestions. By the 4th grade, I dreaded the creative writing class that occurred once a week, replacing reading comprehension lessons.

I was fearless in the face of many assignments - make me diagram a phrase on the chalkboard in front of 30 classmates (no sweat), ask me to identify the theme of a short story (piece of cake), assign ten pages to copy as a penmanship exercise (a snap).

But invite me to create a scene that's all my own - to create a character and put him or her or them in a setting of my choosing and then make them do something? It was so overwhelming, the choices, the decisions, the assignment was daunting. I would agonize over how to start, how to end, where to go, what to name. It was too much!

I'd slide low in my seat, praying- begging- negotiating with God that I'd do ANYTHING if Mrs. Squawker would pick the student in front of me, beside me, or behind me instead.

This dread feeling stayed with me through elementary school (I can't write), through junior high (when there's always the one girl in class who steps up and claims the title "writer" for herself - surely there can be only one), through high school (my aunt would harass me to stop filling my journals with nonsense and encourage me to write for the school paper or the church newsletter or an award-winning first novel) and into college.

Until a work-study job had me mail tear-sheets of the student newspaper to advertisers. I read the drivel the student writers published day-in-day-out and spent my 3 work-study hours criticizing every article on every page. My supervisor bet me that I couldn't do better. Never one to back down from a challenge, I accepted (well.... I was a poor college student and it was easy money in my eyes).

I wrote. I was published. I was proud. I was in awe that I'd wasted so much time worrying about how I'd ever string together the right words to create something someone else could read and understand. Now don't get me wrong - it wasn't Pulitzer Prize winning material, it wasn't great, hell- it wasn't even very good. But it was a start.

Now, almost 14 years later, I spend most of my waking hours writing. I fill the blank pages of journals, the virtual page of the internet, and meet deadlines for work everyday.

This is where Obi Wan comes in - my brilliant editor. Every time I feel a little high and mighty, like I've reached that mythical point where there's nothing left to edit, she swings, she hits and I fall back down where I belong. It's a humbling experience. But I learn more from her than I ever did from classes or the writing books that line the reference section of Barnes and Noble.

I hope you all find a wise Jedi knight to guide your way. The person who reminds you of your strengths, while pointing out your faults. May the force be with you!

And then I read someone like the brilliant Jules and hope that someday I'll come up with something half as good.


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