“The assignment is to write a story. It can be about anything. Please follow the hamburger principle in building your story, a beginning (bun), middle (burger) and end (bun) and add the toppings and condiments to make it funny, sad or scary. It’s due next week”
That was the assignment I had as a second grader. My solution—plagerism. Why? I have no idea. I typed out Maurice Sendak’s story of Where the Wild Things Are word for word. I typed it on my dad’s typewriter a beautiful beast of a machine with satisfying clicks and whacks and dings. I think I even got my dad to help as it was getting late and it was due the next morning. And with confidence the next morning, I turned it in as my story.
Later that day, my teacher pull me out into the hallway to speak with me. She asked me, “Stephen, did you write this story?”
“Yes,” was my reply.
Again, “Stephen, you wrote this story?”
“Yes,” this time with a little indignation.
“Stephen, I’m going to ask one more time. And please answer honestly. Is this your own story?”
Gulp, “Yes, I wrote this. This is my story.”
And this is the best part, “Okay, if you’re being honest, I believe you.”
That’s my first clear memory of writing. I don’t consider myself a writer, but I love to write. Recently I saw a quote that said essentially if you want to become a better designer, you need to become a better writer. So, I write.
I write mostly for me.
It’s a selfish endeavour. Writing is a method for me to solidify my thoughts. I’ve found on many occasions that I begin to write an idea or opinion only to do an about face or scrap it all together, because I don’t believe what I set out to write. Writing clarifies my perspective. When you have to put words on paper or screen, you have to commit to them. The act of writing keeps me honest.
I write to connect
Writing is also a means of connection. It connects me to community. It’s a way to share what I know and believe. It solicits conversation. I can be a way of aligning myself with others on an idea or thought or process.
Ultimately, it’s a discipline I enjoy. I want to be a better writer. So, I write.
Back to the hallway in second grade. I remember that conversation with such clarity. What amazes me about my teacher is her response. Somehow, she knew that my conscious would set me straight. She could have blasted me, she could have gotten the book out of the school library and said “This story? This is your story?” She could have done this in front of the class. But no, because she didn’t, she left an indelible mark on me.