I was capturing some thoughts a couple of days ago about an experience that happened to me in college. I learned a valuable lesson and thought I’d share that today.
While in high school I wrote a lot of poems and stories. As with many youthful writers, my writing was often dark. Perhaps that came with adolescence and the freedom to explore new ideas.
I had a wonderful creative writing teacher, Mr. Sonnenberg. By far one of my favorite instructors in high school. He knew how to give constructive feedback that was both helpful and encouraging.
Not surprising, one of the first classes I signed up for during the first semester of my freshman year of college was a creative writing course. One of our first assignments was to write a short story. I admit my story wasn’t that great. But as the professor read it with disdain to the entire class, then proceeded to rip it apart in front of all my fellow students (none of whom I knew), I felt utterly humiliated and mortified.
Later on this professor offered me some well-intentioned professional advice. What he most likely believed would save me a lot of heartache and headache. His message came across loud and clear to an 18 year old—I didn’t have the ability to write very well and I shouldn’t pursue it any further. And, I didn’t.
Fast forward almost a quarter century. Most of that time I worked successfully in the business world in management, human resources and training. I earned my masters degree in adult education. I was designing training courses, developing staffing programs, communicating effectively through emails, letters and reports. Business writing.
Then unexpectedly, I encountered a fascinating personal experience. It was so engaging that I found myself telling the story over and over to people any time the opportunity presented itself. I remember saying, “This would make a great movie!” But, I still held the belief in my head that I could not be any good at creative writing. I didn’t have the skill set to write—my wise college professor had assuredly informed me.
My eldest son was smart beyond his 16 years of age. I told Trenton that I would love to write about the personal situation, but I didn’t think I possessed the ability to do so. In other words, I wasn’t good enough.
Now, hang on.
If an employee or fellow manager would have come to me, or one of my children, or family members or friends approached me with something they wanted to do, but felt they could not, what would I have said? “Don’t tell me the excuses, tell me how you can achieve it?” That is what I said during employee counseling, coaching and development over the years. Those words fell from my lips a lot … I mean, a lot.
And here was my son giving me that same advice. He said, “You shouldn’t let one professor have that much control over you, mom.” It hit me like a ton of bricks. He was right.
I opted away from writing a book because honestly, I just didn’t believe I possessed the vocabulary to do that. (Still hanging on a little to that professor’s voice in my head.) However, I decided that I would write my first screenplay.
A trip to the used bookstore provided me a good starting point. I read some books, several articles, took some seminars and invested the time and energy necessary to hand write the story out onto a pad of paper. From there it went into a free screenwriting program that helped me learn the proper formatting.
It took me a few years as I was still working full-time and raising children. I got it done. Was it fantastic? Nope. It progressed through several drafts and when I have the opportunity to actually make the film one day, it will require even more revisions with all that I’ve learned over the last several years. I’ve gone on to write multiple screenplays both short and feature length.
This year I did something else to prove that professor wrong—I wrote a novel! A fictional story, 250 pages in length. What an enjoyable adventure. That manuscript is in its final revision and will be published later this year.
The lesson is obvious here. I’m sure you already got it!
Our perception is our reality. We are who we believe we are. Our ability stops or starts with what we believe about ourselves. I’m not saying that we could all go out and be amazing musicians or skilled athletes or articulate speakers. But honestly, who knows!
My message today appears to be an extension of my last blog - Blossom on the Vine - in that we need to be very cognizant of the messages and the beliefs we accept and hold about ourselves.
The last time I checked, we have choices as to how to spend our time, our money and our energy. Choose for yourself.
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