I attended a writing class last weekend at the Georgia Writers Museum. The class was taught by a prolific and best-selling author. I learned a number of things I wish I had known years ago, and that I will certainly make use of going forward.

I was impressed with the class even before it started. When I arrived, the room was set up with a table tent for each attendee, already filled out and on the table, along with a colorful notebook, a pencil, and one of the author’s books, autographed to each individual. The books were used to demonstrate some of the points we covered in the class, and were ours to keep when the class was over.

The class was fun as well as informative, and the two hours flew by. Although I brought a notebook of my own to the class, and I usually take notes with a pen, I used the new notebook and pencil provided by the instructor for the many notes I took.

“Use your notebook as a journal,” he told us near the end of the class. “Keep track of all your ideas as they come to you.” He showed us his own “idea journal” – a smaller version of the class-size one – that he keeps with him wherever he goes.  “And notice that the pencil has no eraser,” he added, explaining that we shouldn’t edit or erase our thoughts and ideas as they come to us. That’s for later.

I’m not sure why that struck me as so profound, but it did. As a writer, I know that we use different skills and areas of our brain when we’re putting our creative thoughts down on paper – or, more likely, on the computer screen – than we do when we’re editing, proofreading, and polishing our work. And we shouldn’t be thinking about the latter when we’re working on the former.

But I also thought about this in terms of anything new we might want to try, whether it’s a hobby, sport, or any other activity. I can think of many times when I kept myself from accomplishing something because I wanted to get it right; I wanted to be able to do it perfectly – or at least well enough not to make a fool out of myself – before letting my efforts out into the light of day. Thinking about it now, I realize I’ve used a life-sized eraser more often than I care to admit.

But no more. I now have my eraser-less pencil setting on the desk in my office, both to use for notes and ideas and to keep as a reminder of the writing lessons – and life lessons – I learned at last week’s class.

The class, by the way, was one of a four-part series presented by the Georgia Writers Museum. I was able to attend one of the previous classes, but had to miss the other one because I was out of town. I’m definitely going to attend the final one in the series next month.

Of course, I have to. I’m teaching it.

September 21, 2018
©Betty Liedtke, 2018

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