“Don’t give up just yet” I had been writing for a few years, and I had finally joined a writing class. I felt I would do anything and I felt that my writing was good.
I had paid for my online course, since at that time I was living in a fairly “out of the way” city in Canada. It is a large city, but because it’s not close to the major literary centres it’s out of the way.
Most writing courses that you could take were in New York, and I certainly couldn’t fly out there and take a few courses for a month or so no matter how much I would want to. Whatever my delusions of grandeur were before I began this course- they were broken within the first session.
I’m not a person who buries their head in the sand, so I could tell right away that most of the writers who were in the class were far better professionally than I was. I also had a teacher who knew her thing. She was no nonsense, and would offer advice to anyone who would ask. Most of the time, I would try to be little miss ball of sunshine, and be very positive towards my other classmates. The problem was- as I can see it clearly now- was that I was ready to quit.
I was that amateur among professionals.
I was done, I didn’t want to submit anything. I did because I had paid for the course, and by gosh or by golly I was too proud not to give up. It must have been obvious to my fellow writers, and more importantly to my teacher. Many of the comments soon began with “This is a good start- but you have to work on your… because it’s only been getting worse.” or, “I know you want to write, but… and you’d be better.” There was nothing wrong with these comments, it was just the fact that it added more salt to the wounds I had.
I wanted to have a book published, and I wanted to be praised. At that point that was all I wanted. I was debating not handing in my last assignment to the group when I saw a small note from the teacher herself.
It went something like this “I know you can do better, and I know you have it in you to do better. Don’t give up just yet.” I only vividly remember the last words- the don’t give up just yet.
Somehow that comment stuck with me. More than three years later, my own book was published. I didn’t give up, and thanks to some very fortuitous events I found a wonderful editor, and another great blogging partner along the way. When I was ready to give up as a new writer, one great teacher told me get up, keep going and improve. That’ a gift- the encouraging when it’s needed but also the push to keep improving, and Sheri Szeman had that gift.
I had the wonderful experience a few years later to re-connect with her on twitter. She wasn’t going by “Sheri” but by her given name- Alexandria, so I didn’t think much of it when I followed her. That was a blessing because otherwise I am sure I would have been too nervous to even tweet with her. She’s still the same no nonsense lady I had the pleasure of working under, and she’s still mentoring others and being herself. I had the idea that one day I would re-pay her mentoring to me.
Two days ago I was out and about and this one person I have a casual acquaintance with was talking about his writing. He was brave about telling people his dreams of publishing a book- far better than I was at that stage of my writing. He was poised to take a writing class, and he suffered a bit of grand delusions.
He had printed off some of the things he wrote, and I had to laugh- not as him but at the memories. His writing is good- but not great like he’d want it to be… and he asked me what I thought. My honest view (and here comes the ‘oh boy’).
I told him what I saw, and what could be improved. I’m not perfect, but I could see it in his eyes, that same sort of look I must have had almost seven years ago. I thought some more and then I took a breath and said: “A wise woman once told me don’t give up just yet.”