Write something that someone told you about yourself that you never forgot.
He said my writing was “brilliant, smart, well-written” and that he “wanted to read more.” I never forgot these words and how I felt when I first read them in an email responding to a rough draft I’d sent in for feedback.
This professor was notoriously tough on campus. I’d taken his Intro to African American Studies course the year before and did not get an exceptional grade in the class. In fact, I think I received a C on one of the papers I wrote for him. Crazy as it seemed, I registered for another course with this professor during my senior year of college. “Death and Dying” was its name and I prayed the name wasn’t indicative of the torture I’d signed up to put myself through in the final semester of my final year.
We were assigned to write explication papers based on one of the books we’d been given to read during the semester. I chose to write on “My Brother” by Jamaica Kincaid (which is still one of my all-time favorites).
I wasn’t always confident in my writing, especially during my years at Smith when I still struggled with my identity, confidence and people-pleasing. I still struggle with letting people read certain words I put on the page and I let this sensitivity and self-consciousness hold me back in making writing something I do fearlessly, boldly, but more importantly daily. Yet, there was no getting out of writing this paper (not if I didn’t want to fail the course). I worked hard on crafting what I thought was an extremely rough draft of the beginning of this paper and the Professor allowed us to send in what we’d written so far for feedback to make sure we were on the right track. All I had was a paragraph and I was still unsure of the direction I wanted to take my writing on Kincaid’s memoir, but I sent it in anyway hoping he wouldn’t rip my writing to shreds or tell me I needed to go back to square one.
Instead I was pleasantly surprised by his reply stating that my first paragraph was brilliant and smart and that he wanted to read more. I was on a high because the toughest professor at my college (and one of the most remarkable) believed in what I had to say and how I phrased it. I was even more surprised when I saw the A that I earned in that class on my transcript. It is this A that I am most proud of receiving in college because A’s were few and not easily given by this professor.
It gave me a boost to see that someone who enjoys the eloquent writings of Hughes, Morrison, and Brooks thought the words of “lil ol’ me” were brilliant. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t compare my writing to those legends, but it’s nice to get outside confirmation that writing is not only something that fuels me, something that I am meant to do, but it is something that I am good at doing.