The Grand Canyon—there's just something about the vastness and the magnificent majesty of it that keeps drawing me back. So when I was asked to write a non-fiction essay about nature for class, it seemed an obvious choice for me.
Today, I want to share my story, about how good story ideas go bad, and about my hardest lesson as a writer.
This was an essay that I was so excited to write. I was overjoyed to write about something that I had so much passion about. I made it a habit to go to the Grand Canyon yearly from 1989-1993. Then, I went every three years till 2000. That was my last trip to the Grand Canyon, and I hope to go there as a regular thing again.
But truthfully, I got too cocky. I thought that because all my essays so far had been well received that would continue. And I fell in love with my idea.
When I got my paper back, I cornered my poor, unsuspecting professor in his office. I didn't like his comments in red scrawled all over the margins of the text submitted to the school online. He was wrong! I felt that vehemently. My first husband, and even my girlfriend the engineer loved it! Surely, it couldn't be all that bad.....
Yes, my ideas were good, but they were half baked at best. To quote my professor, "You have about five essays here....." and "you need to pick one of these outlined topics and stick with it."
His comments floored me. Surely, it wasn't as bad as all that. I had outlined, and researched everything from meditative practices, to the natural history of the Grand Canyon. I covered my vast array of pictures of my trips there and included everything from feeding the squirrels with my first husband, to watching fireworks with my kids over the Grand Canyon Railway. I even managed to stuff in how to get a Zen like monkey mind during meditation, and that places like the Grand Canyon foster this fellowship with God and Nature.... I was on fire when I wrote it. I loved every syllable.
Wrong! The hardest lesson of all was uncovered in a meeting in Dr. Cox's office that fine spring day. My professor quite cautiously told me, "Not everything you write is going to be any good." And he went on to tell me that, "just because you have a good idea, or even a few good ideas, means you're going to write a masterpiece..."
Sufficient to say, I cried for a week. I felt like I was betrayed by the good intentions that led me down this path. Where did my work go terribly wrong?
I think Ernest Hemingway put it best when he said, "The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, s#*@ detector. This is the writer's radar and all great writers have had it."
The hardest lesson I have learned as a writer is that sometimes you have to know when to walk away from your writing. This is so hard for me because I feel like I am abandoning my baby. How can I just leave my work there, and in that state?
Share with us when this has happened to you. When did you just write something that wasn't any good? Or better yet, when did you have a surge of good ideas, and still end up with nothing at the end of the day?
Join the conversation...The Write Conversation.
Laurie Epps is a non-fiction author, essayist, editor, and poet living in Anderson, South Carolina. A seeker of beauty, her is dream is to travel the world one day and tell their many stories. To read more of Laurie's stories visit her Monday Morning Book Club column dedicated to writers everywhere, or her Thoughtful Thursday column dedicated to the art of Poetry at: http://1writerlaurieepps.blogspot.com