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The best kick in the seat ever

April 3, 2012

If you’ve never looked at Grammar Girl on the web, you should. It’s a great resource and Mignon Fogarty makes grammar way more fun than listening to Ben Stein (which is how I typically think of it.)

Mignon Fogarty

In a recent piece on the Gotham Writers’ Workshop website, Ms. Fogarty said that during college, she took an English class where she could skip and screw around and get good grades–so that’s what she did. After all, college is really a wonderful experience, if not for all that academic learning crap they make you do.

Her professor, unswayed by her stellar marks, said that she should drop out. “She said it took more than talent to be a successful writer, and I was wasting my time, her time, and my parents’ money.”

Not drop the class, but drop out. Do something else. Flip burgers. Join the roller derby. Go on a reality TV show. Stuff that doesn’t require the work required to be a successful writer.

Ms. Fogarty said, “It made an impression on me. I don’t remember her name, since I wasn’t very engaged in her class, but I’m sure she’d be surprised to see what a hard worker I am today.”

Branch Rickey once said that “Luck is the residue of design.” (Actually, he stole that from John Milton.) When I was Googling that saying the other day, I found a variant that I like better: Luck is the residue of hard work.”

Based on her post, Ms. Fogarty–someone who makes a living writing about writing online–profited because this professor kicked her butt. From time to time, any writer could used a periodic butt-kicking. With writing, it’s hard because so much of soul and ego goes into the result on the page.

The key is letting go of that soul and ego and paying attention to the content of the butt-kicking. In the words of whoever wrote Hebrews, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but later on it produces a harvest.”

I like harvests (malt, barley, and hops, for instance, are all harvested). Therefore, I have take the long view when I get feedback that isn’t fun, and use it to build that later harvest.


One Comment
  1. celticadlx permalink
    April 3, 2012 2:26 pm

    Have to agree! I’m getting my butt kicked right now! Good post. Thanks!

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