Thursday, June 10, 2004

Avoiding Good Writing

Chris tells us of the dilemma of an Iraqi student who had to write good essays to obtain good marks, but who couldn't write excellent essays because the topics always glorified Saddam or his political party. Besides, if the essay was excellent enough, its author got to stand up and read it before the whole class.

I can't think of many better ways to forge a writer. Write a lie, because if you don't you'll fail, but curb the lie, because if you don't you'll be embarrassed. The fine line must have been overwhelming, even if it was subconcious at the time.

When I was in high school we were asked to write a story, a completely fictitious piece, about anything. I wrote a short story about a young couple arguing. The teacher, a Mr Berolowitz, called me a plagiarist. What! Despite my best attempts to reassure him, he never believed that it was my story from A to Z, all of it. The last thing I remember him doing, as he left me dumbstruck with my manuscript in my hands, was pulling down the lower eye-lid of his right eye and smiling down at me. It hurt.

Years later it hit me. My story had been too good! And that was why Mr Berolowitz had thought I had lifted it out of some book or magazine. Where's the story, now? I'd love to re-read it myself. But in my anger and frustration I tore it up and chewed some of the pages.

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