After I published a post chronicling my decision to compile a book, a few readers asked how I discovered my passion for writing. Did I write all my life, astounding or dismaying others with my prose? Or did writing come to me more reluctantly, like convincing a toddler to open his mouth for pureed spinach?
The spinach analogy works.
I always felt I could write, and my teachers seemed to agree—with varying degrees of enthusiasm. But writing required work; I found it easier and more fun to spend my time reading the words of others and trying to peel the foil from gum wrappers.
Besides, my lifelong ambition was to teach, not write, so why bother?
As a teacher, I most enjoyed teaching literacy: reading, writing, and speaking. The individual writing conferences I had with students of all ages rank among my happiest teaching memories.
During these conversations, I frequently tried to help my students understand the necessity of deleting words, sentences, or paragraphs that divert a reader’s attention from the writer’s story or purpose — like a fly buzzing around a bride’s head as she’s reciting her wedding vows.
Nose-to-nose with an uninhibited second-grader, after a detailed discussion of the strengths we’d found in her story, I gently wondered if two sentences describing her pretty birthday cake, in the middle of a story about trick-or-treating, might confuse her readers.
Could those sentences be taken out of this story and saved for another about her birthday?
“Oh no, Mrs. Bohart, I WROTE them in THIS story. I CAN’T take them out. They’re too GOOD!”
How well she summarized the agony of all writers.
After I retired, buoyed by my enjoyment of a class for beginning bowlers where I had fun and managed to break 100, I took a memoir class. In it, I wrote the memories of my heart, which I read to positive classmates, who laughed at the right times and never looked puzzled or appalled.
I haven’t quit writing since. I had discovered late in life that I could lose myself in writing, allowing my hair to go uncombed and pot roasts to burn.
Choosing the perfect descriptor or thinking of a clever comparison pleased me inordinately; I wrote with a contented smile and emptied the dishwasher with a tumult of ideas swirling in my head. Finally, at age 65, I had begun practicing the skills I preached to students.
It’s never too late to find, or develop, a passion.
What talent or skill
would you like to develop?
What You Said About “Words Matter”
A theme emerged in last week’s comments: parents and teachers need to model the language they want their children to use. Sue kept a quote in her classroom “Children are a mirror,” to remind her to choose her words carefully. Becca, a mom, admitted she sometimes forgets the impact of her words until they come out of her child’s mouth. Kathleen, Becca’s cousin, also stated she wasn’t a perfect mother when her children were young, but she never called them names or berated them; she knew they already had enough to battle out in the world. She also shared a hilarious story about her decision to name her son Tucker. If you haven’t seen it, you’ll want to take a look.