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Her name. Why can’t I remember her name? I met her my freshman year of college. She was the president of the “science fiction club”, a loose affiliation of students who all enjoyed science fiction and writing. I can’t member her name, but I will always remember what she said to me. One phrase. I’m sure she doesn’t remember telling me this. Or remember who I am, for that matter. She said:

of all of them, you have the best chance to be a writer

And that sentence changed my life.

I guess it doesn’t take much, just someone believing in you. She never told me I would be published. She didn’t say that I was a good writer. But she told me there was a chance, that she believed that I could make my talent work.

For context, the science fiction club, on occasion, would attempt writing exercises. Nothing spectacular. Everyone in the club (and I mean all eight of us) fancied themselves science fiction writers.

We had just completed one exercise in particular, where we didn’t attach any dialogue tags and had to convey character and personality through speech only. There were no “he said”, “she said”, angrily, screamed, whispered, raged, or stammered. No adjective or adverb tags, either. Everything the characters had to convey, they did through their words only.

It’s a lot tougher than you’d imagine. Authors have a tendency to rely on crutches like adjectives and adverbs and tags. But that’s what we did.

As usual, our egos interfered with any objective assessment of our abilities. People in my group didn’t take criticism very well. Everybody thought they were the shit. I don’t think I took any criticism poorly— mostly because at that point I didn’t give myself any shot or aspiration of being a published writer, I was still trying to finish my freshman year in college.

Maybe her comment was offhand. I’d like to think it wasn’t. I’d like to think I have some talent. Though looking back on my writing from that time, I think a better use might be to buy a metal dumpster, toss all my work inside and drop a match. Anyway, one sentence. One moment of someone else believing in me, whose genuineness and sincerity I didn’t question.

If you had to identify the moment when I thought that being a published author was a step beyond a pipe dream, this was that inciting moment.

 

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