Radio Diaries: C-Plus Paper

Jan 27, 2017

I was an English major in college and one of my first assignments was a paper on the Nineteeth Century poet, Lord Byron.  I didn’t have a clue what to say about Byron so I used a bunch of scholarly books from the library—and received a grade of C+.

I was stunned.  I’d never received such a poor grade in English before.  This was my major, my specialty, my love!  So I went to see my professor to find out what I’d done wrong.

“You used somebody else’s ideas,” he said.  “I already know what the critics think.  I want to know what you think.”

What I think?  I didn’t think I had any thoughts about Lord Byron that could possibly be original or valuable.  My professor insisted otherwise.

Still, years later when I was writing a weekly column in my local newspaper, I began each column with a quote from a famous person.  Finally a professional writer told me to get rid of the quotes.  “Your ideas can stand on their own,” he said.

Guess I had to learn that lesson more than once.  Some lessons are like that, especially the big ones like “Trust yourself.”