Again a week without any writing support. I’ve now had three repeat partners in a row and of those three they all haven’t been all that helpful. Their feedback centers around, nice, that was good, kept me interested, I want to read more, etc. At 800 words it’s tough to get more, but I suppose I can continue on the next day.
While it’s nice to have positive feedback, for what I’m attempting to do, I need more. How do I actually improve if I only get nice? In college theater classes both in acting and in playwriting nice is the kiss of death. Think of a saccharine sweet nice, the kind where right after, the commenter immediately redirects their attention to a friend or worse, their phone. Great, just thanks. I worked sometimes days if not not weeks on a project and all you’ve got is nice?
Years ago, at the College of Marin, I took an English 102 class in critical writing. that I thought I could breeze through because my friends thought my writing was good. My professor, David, however returned my first paper heavily marked up with a big red D- written in the upper corner. Dejected, I looked around at my classmates grades and saw that I was among the worst in the room. Endeavoring to improve I set about writing essay number two, sure that I could at least pull a C. Again David awarded me a D and my midterm paper earned the same grade.
So I went to him to seek advice. “Don’t worry about these grades; the only grade that truly matters in my class is the midterm paper and the final,” he said. With that he handed the midterm back to me and directed me towards the tutors who worked in the library. “You can resubmit this paper for a better grade,” he said.
I reworked the paper, over and over and fortunately my tutor was patient as I continued to flounder. Two weeks later I resubmitted the essay; it came back with a C-
I had higher aspirations than simply passing.
Again, I darkened the door of the tutor’s office and we got to work. Write and rewrite, kill the babies, remove exposition and organize rationality, all to create a cohesive critical thought. The essay began to sing and I felt empowered. Finally after another week of work I was ready to submit my midterm paper again.
I met David up in his office and while I sat across from his desk he read my work. With the dreaded red pen I was relieved when he wrote B+. Both of us knew I intended to create A level work so there was still something upon which to improve. “This is a remarkable improvement,” he said and then went over what was good and where I might still polish it up. I was just one rewrite away. I was over the moon happy, “But since the final paper is due in just a couple of days I think you’d better turn your attention to that,” my professor said.
Now I’m known for openly displaying my emotions and I’m pretty sure the disappointment shown on my face. “Don’t worry to much. If you write like this on the final you could still earn an A for the quarter.” he said.
I left his office confident that I could write that essay but I didn’t have a lot of time. I rode my bike back to my apartment, walked into the bedroom and got to work.
Two mornings later, I now only had time to print out my finished essay, hop in the shower and deliver it. I knew I’d nailed it, that is until the paper feeder on my printer decided to go on strike! Franticly I unplugged the recalcitrant box and began to disassemble it but within minutes I realized getting to the mechanism was beyond my tools and my comprehension of printer construction. Just as franticly I reassembled it and gave it another go. Still no paper feed. Dejected, I on the corner of my bed. I could print at the library but at those days digital transfer was problematic. In desperation I tried to force feed a sheet into the printer and, one page at a time, the job was printed! Gleefully I stapled the pages together and slid them into a folder and although I smelled like hell, time was up. After biking a two mile sprint, I bounded up the stairs to David’s’ office just as he was locking his door, briefcase in hand. He smiled as handed over my folder. “Sorry I’m late, I said. “I had a feeling you’d make it,” he said.
I received an A- in that class.