When I was an even younger Little Miss Nobody, I was given a unique homework assignment that would stick with me forever. Why? Because it continues to irk me to this day!
Once upon a time my entire grade school class was asked to create a step-by-step list of instructions of some kind of activity. I chose to write out a list of instructions on how to make tea. (I was, and still am, a humongous fan of tea parties – with or without stuffed animals in attendance.)
Anyways, the big day of my presentation finally arrived and I was more than ready. I knew that my activity wasn’t overly complicated and, therefore, all of my instructions were easily understandable. In other words, my project was easy squeezy compared to my classmates who chose activities that required too many intricate or difficult steps.
Basically, mine was going to rock and I knew it.
Fast forward to my presentation, when I’m reading out loud the instructions for a fellow student to follow. Then, the terror of all terrors, my teacher tells my classmate to stop what she’s doing. It goes without saying that no student wants their teacher to stop them mid-presentation – it can never be a good thing, right? Right.
And it wasn’t.
Apparently in my search for epic step-by-step writing stardom, I forgot to mention that you need to unwrap the teabag. Instead, all I said was place the teabag into the water. And although this wasn’t a big deal – as it didn’t take away from the taste of the tea and my grade wasn’t turned upside down as a result – it was a huge blow to my pride. After all, I was a master tea maker. Or so I thought.
For some reason, years later, I continue to think of this lesson in passing. It always crops up when I least expect it and it’s always accompanied by a sense of annoyance. If you’d like a slightly more dramatic visual then imagine me mentally throwing my fist in the air and yelling, “If only I had unwrapped the teabag!”
I mean, my step-by-step was so close to perfection. The idea that such a simple thing could throw it off still vexes me. (I may be just a wee little bit of a perfectionist.)
But to get to the point…
The other day, I was at a photo shoot with one of my authors and it dawned on me that I make a living out of doing the very thing I was trained to do in elementary school. A large part of my job is working with authors and writing up step-by-step descriptions for the books that my company publishes. Meaning that I am continually repeating my elementary school homework assignment over and over for a living.
Can you say wicked coincidence?
In a sense, now is my chance to finally get things right. I can never go back and “redo” that tea making tutorial, but I can finally use the knowledge and wisdom that I’ve gained so that I can do a better job on other projects now that it actually matters.
As you can imagine, I’ve given this entire situation way more thought than it probably warrants. Oh well, that’s me being me. So, as I’m prone to do, I started getting all philosophical over the entire ordeal. And while doing that, it reminded me a lot of the original stories I wrote when I first started out fiddling around with the idea of writing my own book.
Mostly, the majority of my first stories were mere paragraphs of amateur babble. But there was one piece that I wrote, of a pretty substantial length, during my freshman year of college that I still have. For the longest time certain parts of it would stick with me and I’d find myself thinking back on these sections quite regularly. Ultimately, I ended up improving them and decided to rewrite the story completely. As a result, the rewrite became my first finished story of novel length.
Now that’s something.
It just goes to show that even mistakes that haunt you for years, no matter how insignificant, can turn into productive masterpieces if you allow yourself to actually learn from the experience. It burned my butt that I didn’t end up using my original story and had to rewrite it but, to be honest, the second story was ten-times better and received many great reviews.
It’s not fun to have to admit that something you’ve done the first time wasn’t good enough. But you’ll end up regretting it the second time too if you don’t learn from the first, right?
So who’da thunk a third grade writing assignment would send me into such a psychological tizzy?
Certainly not me, but hey, at least I’m still learning!