It was like getting a phone call from Bono

Almost. 🙂

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.

Doors open.

So I charge you: write it wrong! And start spitting. 🙂

3 Responses to “It was like getting a phone call from Bono”

  1. Marty says:

    Very freeing… for my kids and me! Thank you.


  2. Kristen Shields says:

    I worked with the most wonderful librarian once. Several of us were complaining that we never had time to really write (lots of aspiring writers in libraries!) and this dear woman told us “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.” I will always remember that.

  3. kKimmy (aka shimmer.glimpse) says:

    Write it wrong. I have the really, really, really annoying habit of being super-hyper-critcal of my writing to the point that I stopped doing it for a quite a while just to relieve the anxiety of being criticized by myself.

    Writing it…writing free of judgement and all the internal/external constructs and blockades. Letting the light flow freely through the me-filter onto the page without deconstructing and rereading (backspace, backspace, ad nauseum) regurgitating, judging, reconsidering, forgetting, erasing, (backspace, backspace)….oye, what a great burden to cast off….

    great advice. thanks Dr. Elbow and Julie 🙂