Thank you, Miss M


Back when I was in 6th grade (around 11 years old for our international readers), we did a short-story writing project in class. I was lukewarm about this whole “fiction” thing. I was a scholar and how dare my teacher make me write tales when I could be reading the encyclopedia about Bubonic Plague again. But, since we’re all friends here- and friends don’t lie to each other- the real reason I was miserable was because I wasn’t good at it immediately. I could hear the story in my head, but it would get tangled in my elbow and only a sputter would make it to the page. It was demoralizing to say the least. I concluded this fiction stuff was going to take more than 5 minutes of my time, and since I wasn’t going to be a Nobel Laureate, it was sign I shouldn’t be doing it all.

One day my teacher, Miss M, pulled me aside and asked what the problem was. She had collected our journals and while my classmates had filled theirs with fairy princesses and Power Ranger fanfic, mine was filled with doodles of swashbuckling stick-figures or hieroglyphics. I told her my story that I would’ve written, and explained that it was my elbow’s fault because it tangled up everything. She pointed out that I had told her an amazing story (not counting the one involving my elbow) then gave me a piece of advice that has carried me since:

Talk it out. Just pretend you’re telling me the story.

It was one of those light bulb moments I saw in my cartoons. I carried my construction paper “writer’s journal” home that night. I sat at the dining room table and I pretended to tell Miss M the story as I wrote. I could tell my dog was judging me. Night after night, I talked things out until I had filled my little notebook. The dog remained judgmental.

Eighteen years later, I still talk things out. Sometimes out loud, but mostly in my head. Sometimes, when I’m really struggling, I still imagine Miss M sitting there listening to my story. The beauty of this advice is that it’s so basic, yet accomplishes two things all writers need.

  • First, it makes you imagine a reader. Whether you’re writing an essay in school or a short-story for a competition, you have an audience.
  • Second, it gets you out of your head. Imagination is an wonderful thing. However, it’s as dangerous as it is wonderful because we’re tempted to keep our ideas in the warm, echo-chamber of our minds. Talking them out, or writing them down, is the first step to developing your ideas in earnest.

So, the next time you run into a rough spot in your writing, take a moment and heed Miss M’s advice and talk it out.


TRACK: Doin' It Right In The Trap
ARTIST: Nicki Minaj vs Daft Punk
What advice do you have for a 14 year old girl?


This is so vague I love it. The voices you are hearing are real, god is speaking to you. The nation of France needs you. Don your armor, take up arms, lead the French army. This is your destiny, joan. When the flames come for you let them lick your bones and laugh.

TRACK: Centuries
ARTIST: Fall Out Boy
ALBUM: Centuries - Single
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