Monday, February 20, 2006

There's not a lot of things that she'll take back

I think everyone who knows what it is they want to do with their lives (whether they're actually doing it or not) can recall the time in their life* when they first sort of went, "Ah-ha!" and figured out that they like that thing. (Wow, could that be any more vague?) For instance, say, me: I knew I really enjoyed reading and writing from a very young age, but I distinctly recall my seventh-grade English class as a turning point:

I had Scott Foster for a teacher, who was a very genial, easy-going man given to wearing hideous, hideous footwear. He had the first pair of Earth Shoes I ever remember seeing, and boy, were they atrocious. But he was an excellent teacher, and he was the first adult who ever responded to me as if I might one day be an adult too, as if I had things that were worth saying, and it was his job to help me shape them correctly so people would be interested in hearing them. (I once wrote a paper on the environment for his class, and next to a paragraph about the amount of trash in the ocean that mentioned styrofoam packing pellets, he had commented "I imagine people became crazed by their inability to rid their bodies of them and jumped into the sea." This struck me as a comment made between two equals, not that of a teacher to a student, and I really appreciated it for that reason. [Obviously, as I can still remember it verbatim almost 20 years later.])

His philosophy of writing was that you shouldn't worry too much about going back and trying to fix things while you were still in the process of doing the writing. He was more of the opinion that you should try to write your way out of any awkward or unclear things you had already said, and that maybe you would hit upon the best version that way. I took that to heart, because it helped to free me of that internal editor/critic in my head that's constantly going "That sucked! You're a sucky writer! That's the suckiest phrase that ever sucked a suck!" It didn't totally cure me of that, naturally, but it was the first time it had ever occurred to me that I didn't have to be perfect all the time, on my first attempt, no exceptions. Of course, he was still in favor of editing, he didn't mean you should never correct your mistakes, merely that it was better to keep going than to stop and obsess about what you were having difficulty with. (It's also worth noting that this was waaaaaay back in the age of typewriters, when fixing your mistakes was a wee bit more time-consuming.)

*Please, someone come up with a resolution to the whole his/her/their thing as regards the general plural pronoun. Strunk and White say "The use of he as pronoun for nouns embracing both genders is a simple, practical convention that has lost all suggestion of maleness." I don't agree. But I do agree that "The furor about he would be more impressive if there were a handy substitute for the word. Unfortunately, there isn't - or, at least, no one has come up with one yet." Please! Someone!

What I'm trying to say is this (bad news for my tens of readers): I will probably not do a whole lot of editing of my entries once they're posted. If I make a blatant factual error that I later discover, I will of course correct it, but I will probably make an addendum to the post rather than try to make it appear as if I never made the mistake in the first place. Pobody's nerfect and all that.

Thanks for reading.

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