It was like getting a phone call from Bono
Many of you are familiar, by now, with my writing mentor: Peter Elbow (author of Writing with Power). I have been hunting for his email address for five years. My aim? To thank him for his profound influence on my work as a writer, editor and instructor. Mostly, I wanted to touch the hem of his garment.
Fast forward to last week. I attended a book signing. The author happens to work with Jon at Xavier. She and I have become friends, as well. She mentioned in her acknowledgements that Peter Elbow looked at an early manuscript. I jumped on this information.
“Do you have his email address?”
“Do you think he’d mind if I emailed him?”
She assured me that he wouldn’t mind in the least.
So I got up early the next morning and sent him a long overdue thank you note.
Three hours later: Ping! A new email message. From Peter! A rush ran through me. I had a personal email from the master.
Besides being friendly and warm, he sent me two articles to read that speak to issues I’m working through for the high school book. I also shared with him about how he helped me break through writer’s block when I had to write my first graduate level research paper. After ten years of professional writing and editing, you’d think I wouldn’t have struggled. Not! I hit a brick wall reinforced by steel. Dr. Elbow understood and shared a tidbit I want to pass on to you.
So here’s that bit of insight from Dr. Elbow, himself:
When you speak of your recent struggles in grad school, it just reinforces what I see all the time: how school–and ESPECIALLY grad school–has a myriad of factors that make writing hard.
In an academic climate–and when I’m talking to (grad) students who are struggling, I find it useful not just to talk about going fast and not sweating it; it seems to be useful to say WRITE WRONG! The concepts of “write” and “excellent” are so tyrannical: it’s useful just to spit in their face and invite wrongness.
So I charge you: write it wrong! And start spitting. 🙂