Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Waft Thy Substance: A Tribute to Dr. Marjorie Elder


It was my first college paper, and I stayed up all night attempting to capture the essence of William Shakespeare. I wrote, re-wrote, and wrote again. The CFD (Cruddy First Draft) didn't cut it. Neither did the CSD (Cruddy Second Draft) nor the CTD (Cruddy Third Draft.)

I worked my fingers to the bone hammering stubborn typewriter keys, in a frantic attempt to sound intelligent and scholarly. I scoured the thesarus for the longest multi-syllable words I could find and plopped them into my sentences.

Finally, after several anguished hours, I had a six page masterpiece. Never, in all my life, had I written (or even read) a collection of so many scholarly words in such confined space.

I smiled triumphantly as I turned my assignment in to Dr. Elder the next morning. As a noted scholar in literature, she was sure to be impressed!

A few days later, our graded assignments came back. I was astonished to find no grade on my paper. Instead, a bold "See Me!" was scribbled at the top of the page.

Nervously, I approached Dr. Elder after class, clutching my composition.

"I-I-I'm wondering why you wrote this on the top of my paper" I stammered.

The good professor smiled, and with a twinkle in her eye, replied, "Mark, I know you can do much better than this. You need to BE YOURSELF when you write, and quit trying to be somebody you're not! Those aren't your words. That's not your heart. You should write to express rather than impress.

"You have the potential to be a delightful and creative writer -- but I need to hear it in YOUR voice -- in YOUR style!"

"Now, I'm going to give you another chance. Instead of trying to be a Shakespearian scholar, just relax and be yourself! Say it the way you feel it!"

So, properly chastened and motivated, I went back to the typewriter in my dormitory, and returned with a new paper -- as well as a fresh outlook on writing, which has stayed with me ever since:
Loosen up.
Have fun.
Write what you mean from the heart!
Say it your way, and let 'er fly.

Or, I could put it another way, reverting to Shakespearian: "In tranquilized repose and festive merriment, inscribe the quintessence of thy bosom and waft thy substance."

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mark,

Celebrate!

Naming of Elder Hall

Chapel Services, 10 a.m. & 11:05 a.m., Wednesday

Unveiling of Name at 12:00 noon, North Entrance to Elder Hall



The University community is invited to a brief ceremony during the Wednesday Chapel services honoring the service of Dr. Marj Elder to Indiana Wesleyan University. Dr. Elder graduated from IWU in 1945 and began teaching at the University the same year. This week, she will complete her 63rd year as a faculty member. Dr. Elder, a Professor of English, served for many years as Chair of the Division of Modern Languages, Literature and Communication. It is fitting that the Academic Building, which opened in August, be named in her honor.

Doug Drown

Keetha said...

I can't believe this!!!

I was reading the "anonymous" comment over there and the NAME at the bottom was below my screen. I thought to myself, "This sounds like my cousin Doug."

Wow - - - I'm GOOD!!! I'm REALLY good.

No WONDER Hillary is trying to contact me to be something important like "Blogger to the President."

If you don't understand what I'm talking about - - - you'll just need to check my blog.