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I Can Write

Author: Cheryl Beers
Date: 09-23-02

For years I have taken writing for granted, never considering the work that goes into a magazine article or the hours spent writing a book. When I was younger, I was a poor student in English and never developed an interest for it. This changed when I took my first class at IUE: Pre-composition. In the beginning, I took the class because I needed it for my degree but I walked away with much more.

The hardest part about writing is developing the topic. In this class, Professor Joy encouraged us to write about things that we cared about and memorable events. The assignment was to write about an event that changed us. I attempted to start the essay at home, in my dining room, at the dining room table. It was early in the morning. My children were at school and my husband, Bryan, was at work. I sat at the table waiting to write the first word or thought but my mind was clogged with the things I needed to do, like, laundry, dusting, washing dirty dishes, paying bills, and just about everything but writing. So I decided to take my walk, out to the countryside, hoping to clear my mind.

As I opened the door to go outside, I felt the cold, frigid air on my face. And when I took a breath it seemed to dry out the inside of my nose. The temperature high for the day was 34°, pretty normal for an Indiana winter day. April, my five-year-old Beagle, was my walking partner. Every morning I walk the same stretch of road: down through town along the Greens Fork River, out past the town cemetery south of town, up to Bond Road. Once on Bond Road, I faced the challenge to walk to the top of Bond Hill where I could look to the north and see all of Greens Fork and the surrounding area. From there, I walked down to Mineral Springs Road that winds down past Bond Pond.

As I walked towards the partially frozen pond, in the bend of the road, the scene reminded me of an old country painting. Snow-powdered trees dotted the edges of the water and lined the roadside. I felt as though I was walking through a winter wonderland. As I took in the scenery, my mind was spinning through ideas for an essay topic but I came up empty.

Once home, I poured a glass of water and went to the dining-room table where my work lay. At first, I just sat motionless, wondering if I would ever have something to turn in. Just as I started to feel defeated, I whispered a small prayer for help from the Lord, simply asking for His guidance.

Then, I started writing aimlessly. My thoughts jumped around with my mind, always coming back to the day I encountered the Match Box Car Man. Many times in church I had shared the story of this man. The story is about a stranger, I named the Match Box Car Man, who paid the grocery tab for another. It occurred to me that the Lord was asking me to write the story. I started writing every detail about that day and within two hours I was able to fill almost three pages, front and back, of hand-written material. I was concerned, though, because Professor Joy had requested only three pages for the first draft.

When I went to class I had no idea what Professor Joy would think of the six pages of writing. I was concerned it was too long, that my thesis was not supported, and that I had too many grammatical errors. She asked each of us to come up to her desk to review our first draft with her. When it was my turn to go up, a dread flooded me. I just knew she would have much to say about my essay. To my amazement her reaction, as she read my work, was welcoming. She showed great delight in my story. I came away feeling as if I had created one awesome piece of work. Even so, there would be more drafts to improve the essay.

With each draft I would make changes to sentence structure, hunt for more appropriate words, and correct the grammar. For instance, I wrote, "Considering all I had to do, there would be little time for me" and in the next sentence I continued with, "little did I know, this Saturday I would be a witness to compassion, giving and receiving." I needed to change "little" to something else in one of the two sentences. I chose to change "little time for me" in the first sentence to "no time for me".

Truly, I never knew it would take so many revisions to complete a three-page essay. I began to tire of the whole process. At times I would be so frustrated that I wanted to scream. Other times my head hurt so badly that I wanted to cry. By the time I got to the third and fourth draft, I wanted to curse. However, thanks to Professor Joy and the staff in the writing lab there was no screaming, crying, or cursing.

The staff in the writing lab supported me with their expertise in the technical writing needed to create a good essay. They read over my work and offered suggestions. The staff pointed out the grammatical errors and gave me worksheets. In class, Professor Joy inspired me to push myself for the perfect paper. Just when I thought I was finished with my essay and there were no more revisions needed, she would say, "I think this part could be better explained" and "the conclusion needs some work." For example, in the last draft, my conclusion was not clear; it left the reader hanging. There was a need to tie the beginning of the essay to the end. I spent some time thinking about how I felt about that day, and I read the essay over and over. Soon, I was able to write a better conclusion than the one before. Because of that extra effort, I received an "A" on the essay.

As I look back to that semester, I get a sense of success and self-confidence in my writing that I didn't have before. Now, I see the benefits in writing a well thought out paper for school. It was a challenge to go through the writing process. It still is, but it is rewarding to see the outcome. I see in the future a chance to share my thoughts and ideas, now that I can write.

Copyright 2002 Cheryl Beers. All rights reserved.