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Nobody Starts Out As A Great Writer

May 25, 2021

Often they don’t even start out as good writers.

I’ve been writing for a long time. I written some good stuff. I’ve written a ton of garbage. But, one piece of writing stands out as one of the worst things I’ve ever written. Even now, 40 years later, it causes me to cringe and give thanks that no one will ever see it. It was during my high school freshman English class.

Our instructor was a wonderful woman named Ms. Thomas. Even back in 1980 she was a Ms. Not Miss. Not Mrs. Ms. Thomas. And she was a great teacher. I had her again two years later for AP English. I might have one other class from her, I’m not sure. I credit much of my current skills to her classes all those years ago. She helped me a lot.

And I needed the help.

“The Most Dangerous Game” is a classic short story by Richard Connell, published in 1924. The story is well known. It tells the story of a man shipwrecked on an island where he is hunted by a Russian aristocrat. “The most dangerous game” both describes the game the two characters “play” as well as the fact that human are the most dangerous animal, or game, to hunt.

It’s a brilliant story. If you missed it in school it’s worth tracking down a copy and reading it. Really wonderful stuff.

It was assigned at the beginning of our freshman English class and we were give the assignment to write a report on it. I’d never written a book report or a story report. I had no idea how to write a report on it.

So, I went with what I knew. I was very familiar with the classic essay style. You know, where you have the introduction paragraph that includes the topic sentence. Then, you have 2-3 paragraphs that support your thesis and finally you have a concluding paragraph that restates your main points.

Now, had I written a report of The Most Dangerous Game in classic essay style, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. No. Instead, I decided to apply the classic essay style to Connell’s excellent short story.

A short story is about as far from a classic essay as you can get.

Having compared his work to my “standard” and finding it didn’t fit, I went on to write a report on how terrible Connell’s story was. I still remember my final line,

“For the reasons stated, The Most Dangerous Game will never be known as a great story.”

Oh, the arrogance of youth. I don’t remember what grade I got on my critique. I don’t think Ms Thomas was heartless enough to give me the grade I truly deserved.

“I think I shall never see

A poem so lovely as a tree.”

– Joyce Kilmer

Kilmer may be right about trees and poems (honestly, I heard this as “street” instead of poem, but both make the point.) The important point to remember is that just because a poem cannot be as lovely as a tree, doesn’t mean that a poem cannot be lovely.

Just because a story doesn’t fit the form of an essay doesn’t mean it’s not just as well written as an essay.

Think about this when you are leading people. Who is “lovelier,” a sales guy in front of the customer every day or a database administrator who never interacts with anyone?

“Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

– Albert Einstein

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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