Professor Hamilton stood before his last class of the semester.
Hamilton himself was moderately successful as a writer. While a professor he’d slowed down his production, but wrote three novels in the last ten years and a nonfiction work on writing.
Professor Hamilton smiled at his class. “Fifty-two students this semester, some serious, some not, most who are serious show promise. And those who don’t show promise, don’t give up. If you don’t give up, you will likely succeed where those who show the most promise fail?”
“This is the last day of class,” Hamilton said. “What is it you want to hear? Any questions?”
“How long did you write before you published your first novel?”
Hamilton grinned. “Forever, or so it seemed. I wrote for ten years. Finally I wrote something good. Then I wrote a couple of things good. And then I was able to sell all my bad stuff.” He chuckled. “Somebody had to pay for all those years. I had people to pay back.”
The class laughed.
“Another question,” Hamilton said delighting at the opportunity.
“What was the best writing advice you ever received?”
“It was all good,” Hamilton said seriously. “Of course, you can’t use all of it, because some of it is conflicting. So here it is: find your own voice, write your own story, write it honestly, if not sure about grammar make it a quote, bad spelling justifies the existence of proofreaders and nowadays we have spell-checks, and don’t try to be fancy; write simple.”
“Another question,” Hamilton beckoned.
“How much do you take the advice of editors?”
“Listen to them,” Hamilton said. “Then listen to yourself. You are the author. That word eventually becomes an authority. Think of it this way; if you write 500 pages and edit it yourself to 400, the editor will edit it down to 300. If you started with 300 they will whittle it down to 200. If you hand them something less than 200 they’ll say that’s not enough. Write your best. Keep a little in there for the editor to feel good about himself, but if you are sure of something stick to your guns. Remember, editors are jealous of your ideas.”
“Any more questions,” Hamilton said.
That seemed to be all the class had.
“Write good stuff,” Hamilton said. He waved and winked.
The class stood and applauded.
Hamilton stopped and held his hands up to quiet the students.
“There’s one more thing,” Hamilton said. “Some of you will write and sell. Likely my words will go unheeded. Careful what you write. Your writing may awaken demons in people or make goodness arise. When I was young my mother had me read nothing but good. That’s why I always tell my students to write good stuff. Don’t allow your minds to wander into the perverse and call it creativity. Write a story that is good rather than one that will titillate. Write about virtue, character, principle, and goodness. Your work influences people. If you have that special gift to write well, write about good stuff.”
Hamilton nodded politely and exited the side door.