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Three things writers need to remember about their work

Jan 10, 2023

Once, in a job interview, I was asked how or when I knew that I could make a living as a writer. 

It wasn’t a question I’d thought about in advance. I could’ve answered in a multitude of ways, talked about my passion for books and making up stories and creating worlds that drew people in, made them think. 

But none of those spoke to talent. 

In the moment, here’s the story that came out of my mouth, without me even planning for it. 

My parents had forced me into Catholic school in middle school, and ensured I remained there through high school. That, of course, is another story. In one of my high school English classes, I had a teacher named Sr. Virginia. There are plenty of things I could tell you about her, but the one thing I’ll always remember is A Tale of Two Cities.

We’d read the book and been assigned a report. I LOVED this book. I was so excited to read it, I couldn’t wait to write about it, and I put my heart and soul into the paper. I was really, really proud of this paper. (Yes, I was a total nerd, even back then.) I waited anxiously to get the paper back, fully expecting an awesome grade. Like, an A+. I knew this paper was good. 

So when I got my paper back with a C- grade, I was flummoxed. And more than a little pissed off. I mean, who did this nun think she was? Was she kidding me? I was a pretty shy kid who kept lots of things bottled up (one of the reasons I’ve been in therapy for years, but I digress), but on this day there was no question that I was going to call her out. After class, I marched up to her desk and asked her to justify the grade.

Her response? “The paper is too good. I feel like you copied it from somewhere.” 

I didn’t know whether to laugh or freak out on her. In the end, I settled for something like, “I can assure you this is my work and I’d like my grade adjusted to reflect that.”

I got my A. I also stood up for myself. And it kind of was that moment where I realized, oh, yeah, I am good at this. 

The story is kind of funny today when I tell it. (It wasn’t funny then. It did make for a unique answer to my interview question. And I did get the job.) But it’s also important because it really drives home the point that EVERYTHING we do as creatives is subjective. It’s different than accounting. If your numbers are wrong, they’re wrong. When you’re writing, though, it’s not so cut and dry. 

I want people in my world, whether you join my membership, take a course, or get coaching, to be able to:

    • Recognize that your writing is a calling
    • Work at it to make it better
    • Understand that nothing you write will be for everyone 

That doesn’t mean it’s not good. On the contrary. It could be the exact thing someone out there needs to see that changes their life. 

Don’t let the Sr. Virginias of the world tell you otherwise. Or make you doubt your abilities. 

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