I don’t remember writing much before the 5th grade when Mr. Harrington, one of the few male elementary teachers, taught us a unit on poetry. We wrote and illustrated out own haiku. The models he read us were classic Japanese paeans to nature—the moon, a crane, a cherry tree. Boring. I had no love for nature at that time, so I wrote about something I DID love: a candy bar. I got a lot of praise for my originality and my execution. After that, I used writing to get attention and affirmation.
Feeding my ego needs continued to be my motivation, even when the writing was assigned as part of a class. I needed to get an A, whether it was a history or English assignment. I lived on A grades. However, I was basically lazy, so I often used the candy-bar-haiku trick to get the A more easily. I chose an odd or little-discussed topic. It took less research and usually pleased the teacher because it was different from the bulk of papers.
For example, in the 11th grade instead of analyzing some motif in Thoreau’s Walden, I wrote a time-travel story of Thoreau visiting a super-market, imitating Thoreau’s style.
In a college English history course, I wrote about inns and hospitality because it tied in with my Chaucer class, and I knew I could use the info in my teaching life.
I still like to choose an odd topic, even without grade-grubbing. This week I wrote a blog based on a verse from the Koran that says Allah gave us cows partly for the beauty of watching them walk to and from the barn each day. I called it “Beauty in Cow Dung.” Rather than an “A,” I am hoping for clicks on my blog post and sign-ups to my mailing list. Still, I seek my reward!
Just after writing this blog, I came upon this from St. Teresa of Avila—
The Fleeting Nature of Human Commendation—St. Teresa of Avila, “The Way of Perfection”
Obviously, we did not come here to seek a reward in this life. Our thoughts, therefore, ought to be elevated to those things that endure forever. Do not place great value on terrestrial things that pass even more speedily than life itself.
It is preferable for you to remain always in disfavor and in abasement. Wish to remain thus for the love of our Lord, whom you find always in abasement with you. Reflect upon yourself and study your interior life…It is within you that you will find your Master who will never fail you. The more you are deprived of exterior consolations, the more he will lavish his joy upon you. He is full of compassion. He never abandons afflicted and lonely souls who place their entire trust in him.
Oh, well, back to the drawing board! Thanks for that little nudge, God.