childhood

Crying Over Spilt Ink

I wrote my first poem in 5th grade about a snowflake. That is all I can remember about it and I wish I had kept it. I took it up to my teacher to read and she said, “That’s nice.”
Unlike many kids I enjoyed school and liked many of my teachers. In fact, I found it easier to get along with the teachers than the students. I knew I was a nerd of sorts because I got great grades most of the time and other kids would sometimes call me one when I did better than them on a test or assignment. It made me proud, but not particularly special. Most of the kids got pretty decent grades in parochial school so I never saw myself as above average in any way.
Then I walked into the public school system in eighth grade. I had been around a few goof-offs before, just not so many. Because I was from parochial school I was put into the classes for average kids. By the end of the first semester, the teachers recognized I was above average and petitioned to get me into honors math and English.
There was one teacher in particular who encouraged the other teachers to agree I was not just average, who saw me as someone who had special gifts even. That was my English teacher, Barb Duncan. When I showed her my writing, she encouraged me to enter an essay contest, in which I took third place and for that I got my picture and essay in the local paper.
She told me I was a strong writer who had a lot of potential. She inspired me to keep writing. When I wrote my first short play a few years later for a high school project, I dedicated it to her during the performance.
My parents never discouraged my writing or my interest in any of the arts and even seemed adequately proud when I wrote an essay at age 16 that won me a trip to Washington DC for a week. But they never inspired me and coached me the way Mrs. Duncan did, probably because they didn’t really know what to do with a child interested in the fine arts other than to just let her do her thing.
Mrs. Duncan pushed me, wanting to see more out of me. I’ll never forget her—she was very petite, probably almost a foot shorter than I am. She had a long, dark braid down her back and totally didn’t look like the type of woman to ride a Harley, but she had a wild passion in her for the open road apparently.
I wish now that I knew how to connect with her again. I haven’t seen her since probably just after college. What she would think of me now, I wonder. My pen was dormant for so long. Do I still have the talent and promise she saw so long ago?
I sometimes wish I still had some of those early teen musings to look back upon. Would I see what she did? I once had a folder full of writing that I did when I was young, but I can’t find it now. I would like to see some of it. Though much of it is silly romance or angst I think I am now in a good place for looking back, for now I can recognize how far I have come.
I sometimes wonder if I would have taken as great an interest in writing and the English major in general if it wasn’t for Harley Duncan, as the students called her. I couldn’t stop writing once I was told I was good at it.
However in college, my writing professor told me my scope was limited and the amount of writing I did diminished steadily until all I did was journal. I didn’t take any more creative writing classes after that. All I wrote about was the pain I experienced and I showed almost no one my writing.
My husband rekindled my interest in the written word when we were dating by saying he liked the way I wrote my letters to him (we lived in different towns). In grad school a few years later, I took another creative writing class as a requirement. I was very nervous about presenting my short story to the class to critique but received so much good feedback that I was once again encouraged to write a little.
However, it took nearly a decade before I would take up my pen on a regular basis again. I not only had to gain self-confidence, but I also had to feel I had something worthwhile to say. Ink is still not filling a notebook a month—not yet anyway. But ink is spilling forth gradually. It may not happen every day, but it does happen usually at least once a week. I haven’t worked out an adequate way to reward myself for daily writing to get myself into the habit. There are still a lot of gaps between entries. However, I am writing more than I was just three months ago and I must relish and reward that achievement.
There is no sense in crying over the days I didn’t write because they are in the past. I can write today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. I must write until my current notebook is full, no matter how bad the writing is. After I reward myself, I must then begin again with another notebook. I must just take things one line at a time.
Barb Duncan only began to fan the writing flame in me. Other writers and bloggers are now tending to it. It might have nearly gone out once or twice, but it has never been snuffed completely. Now I have a passion for sharing what I have learned. It is no longer a single flame flickering, but a roaring fireplace providing me with the hot, burning desire to write, to create something useful and worthwhile.
This blog was inspired by a writing prompt that asks the writer to recreate a change of mind. It is from Write Starts by Hal Zina Bennett, which is a great little book of prompts I use for exercises. This prompt is spelled out on pg. 39-40. The title is my husband, Allen Posz’s, brainchild and I thought it went well with the piece.
Has someone ever inspired you to want to improve your skills? Has that memory stuck with you? What kinds of stories would you like to see me tell in this blog? Fiction? Nonfiction? A particular genre? Feel free to leave a comment below and tell me what direction you would like to see me go, as well as sharing something you remember about someone who gave you direction in your life.