A Tale of One Red Ink Pen

It was the mid 2000s and I found myself having to write, yet again, another research paper for school. High school to be exact. Like every report before it, it was due on a Monday, leaving me to devote a sizable chunk of my weekend to making sure that it was complete. Unless I REALLY wanted to test the limits of my ‘creativity’ procrastination by finishing it before the period it was assigned, using one of the school computers.

More important, than the due date, was the fact that I usually wanted to finish it early enough for my dad to look at it before I submitted it for a grade. What can I say? I was a glutton for punishment.

Peer review done by my dad was not for the faint of heart. I even heard grown men and women complaining about it. Armed with over two decades of time spent in administration, overseeing projects with documentation miles ahead of anything I would write at the time AND a red ink pen, he went to war with my juvenile opinions on To Kill A Mockingbird, the science of the human body, and plenty of other topics I can no longer recall.

Coincidentally, it was also during high school that the writing bug really bit me for the first time. I was always an avid reader, but I never really put too much effort into trying to create my own stories from scratch; and the thought of that being a profession for me, in the future, wasn’t even a thought at the time. That wouldn’t come until years later in college. So each scholastic attempt at putting together something to make my teacher impressed became a small goal of mine. It wasn’t enough to just pass on my paper, I wanted complimentary notes and fanfare because of the power of my words.

So imagine the blow to my young, naive ego each time I was handed back my rough draft from my dad, an explosion of red ink correcting errors like a crime scene on the printed paper. I had spent hours, even days, on certain subjects; and from what I got back, it seemed as if it all amounted to him just telling me to do better next time. At least that’s how my teenaged mind took it.

Years of this made me start to shy away from sharing any writing with him. He noticed and, at first, didn’t say anything. But soon it was unavoidable. We had that conversation. He wanted to make sure that his critique hadn’t been taken as offense by me. It was a talk we needed to have. Through it, I learned the importance of honest critique and feedback. It was a lesson I carried forward with me soon after high school and into college. From someone who cares, examination of something important to you doesn’t have to be seen as negative. Especially when it’s coming from the right place.

Confidence in the work that you produce doesn’t mean that it’s safe from feedback. In fact, we should all keep people around us who we can trust to provide an honest observation of our decisions, our lives, and our ideas. If you don’t currently have that, you should seek it out immediately because no one on this planet is infallible; and if you’re living with that delusion of yourself, then let this be a wake up call to reality. If you dish it out, you better be more than capable of taking the blows back because life comes at you fast.

Twelve years later and I’m now the go-to friend to do the exact same thing I once shied away getting from others. At work, I review important emails and documents for coworkers before they’re sent out as a favor. I edit the blog posts brainstormed by VERY creative friends (check our their work HERE and HERE), to ensure that their best work shines through. My continuing interests in editing, writing, and reading sparked a desire to create a group around that idea (aided by Scrawl and Spirits), something architected as the Group Reading and Writing Posse (GRAWP for short).

In 2018, I’ve even had the opportunity to start editing my first ever manuscript by a writer intent on publication in the not-so-distant future (and the story they’ve written is REALLY good). My, how the tables can turn if you learn to open yourself to the opinions of others who want to see you succeed. It doesn’t mean that you’ll always like what’s said; and you can agree to disagree, but it doesn’t stop good feedback from being needed at times. Even this blog’s humble beginnings¬†evolved from the helpful words of those who only wanted to see it grow. The pendulum has definitely swung back my way.

While I don’t have to pass as many written projects through my dad as I did when I was a kid, his lessons still stick to me. These principles of honesty to the ones you care about, going out of your way to help others, and putting your all into the things you give your word to complete are all tenants that I not only utilize in editing written work but in my life; and I hope I can be successful moving forward with that mindset.

Until next time.

Author: Mr. Nifty

1 thought on “A Tale of One Red Ink Pen

  1. Very powerful message; take what a parent gives you and be grateful, even if it doesn’t seem kind —- know our parents love us. (Probably harder to feel that way after a spanking, though:-). Then pass on the gift as you grow. Thanks for sharing this with all of us.

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