I Remember Putting My Hand On That Paper

I sat in the classroom.  A student once more.  I had not gone directly to college from high school.  I didn’t think, or know, or understand, that it was an option available to me.  For me.  When I did return, I felt removed and unsure.

The instructor gave us a surprise quiz on punctuation and grammar.  Diagramming ‘stuff’.  I failed, miserably.  Though embarrassed by that performance I knew I didn’t write to follow rules or standardized expectations.  I didn’t want to appear ignorant.  I had been taught all of these things but they never seemed to work for how I wrote.  So I didn’t pay much attention.  But it still felt like a blow to my ego, and my intelligence.

We left that class with an assignment for the weekend.  A writing assignment.  I spent the weekend writing.  I enjoyed the ‘have to’ of it, the purpose of it.  I wrote freely and passionately.  The first class of the next week was this same class and I turned in my assignment.  At the end of the week the instructor passed out copies of 3 different essays to all of us.  These were essays that impressed her and she wanted the class to review them together and to discuss them.

My essay was not one of them.

I was heart sick.  I went through that class with a weight bearing down on me and how I thought of that essay.  The piece I had written was, to me, personal, strong and well written.  I knew it.  How could others not see it?  Grammar and punctuation be damned.  That essay was good.  But I couldn’t deny that heavy weight of disappointment that someone else hadn’t seen the value and depth.

At the end of class the instructor said she had something to read to all of us.  It was the last paper she had read and hadn’t had time to include it in her lesson plan for this day’s class.  She prefaced the reading by saying the grammar and punctuation were not great.   She started reading.  I knew with the first two words it was my paper.  After a few sentences she stopped and said “oh-reading it out loud – okay – I get it”.  She then read my paper completely, fully, to the class.  She read smoothly and eloquently, using my punctuation and grammar the way I wrote it.  She read it as close to how it was heard in my own head when I wrote it, as anyone could have come to my own voice.

She put the paper down, in front of me, on my desk.  Smiled.  And said “that…..is good writing.”

Validation.

I know that not everything I write is of that caliber.  I know that not everything I try to write comes that easily.

I know, now, to trust what I know.  That when I write and it is right that it is right.

I know, now, it’s okay to want validation.  It’s okay to need validation.  But it’s also okay to believe in myself.

I remember putting my hand on that paper.  Owning it.  It was mine.

I knew it’s value.

And someone else saw it too.

 

 

 

40 thoughts on “I Remember Putting My Hand On That Paper

  1. The ending was full of hope, Colleen. I felt all your emotions through your words. One doesn’t need to be an excellent grammarian to be able to write well. Good writing comes from the soul. It is a natural gift you have, and one you use well!

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  2. oh, that’s a nice story. Not always you get affirmation and certainly the things we do create are inaccessible and meaningless for lots of people. But it does not matter, because your own enthusiasm creates the most energy anyway and if this energy is maintained, your own success is guaranteed!

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  3. But….punctuation is the difference between “helping your Uncle, Jack, off a horse” and “helping your uncle jack off a horse” I’m just saying….. 🙂

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  4. I could feel all this unfolding for you. It had taken me quite a while to ‘own’ what came through me …my heart racing until the first like, the first comment …a first human to be ok with what I had written. And also for someone to get how truly deeply I was feeling my words. Being had to be nourished by a lot of validation. I never studied formal writing of any kind, poetry or prose so I had to learn to trust that it is valid because that’s how I expressed it.

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  5. There is a difference, I think, between needing approval and needing validation! It’s subtle, but to me significant. Without positive feedback we can become isolated in our thoughts and feelings. If we depend on others’ approval, that can be a lonely road! LOL! I think it’s also beneficial to consider who is giving the validation. Three cheers to you for receiving that positive feedback from a respected source, because it spurred you on! Now, if only you’d been given the incentive to illustrate your essay! That would have “wowed” your professor! 🙂

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    • I think you are right Debra, and stated it so clearly. I cannot live constantly waiting on approval. But the validation at the right time goes a long way to sustaining one during the periods of creativity when you aren’t sure if ‘this’ is right.

      Thank you Debra….for being part of the sustaining. 🙂

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    • oh yes, a very important point is, from whom the approval comes. A real motivation to continue is only given, if the person who motivate you is important to you. if you only get feedback from people, you do not care, you will not be motivated to go on.

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  6. Thank you for bringing us back with you to those moments, Colleen. I relate to much of what you wrote, as I believe most of your readers will be touched by this universal theme.

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