Photo Credit: Jennie Anne Benigas



November 2010

"Nulla dies sine linea -
Write first each day -
Complete one writing task every morning -
Know tomorrow's task today"


Donald M. Murray (1924-2006)

A Writer's Identity

Dear Reader,

The opening quotation from Don Murray is on a laminated card that hangs above my computer. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of writers received one during his long tenure as a writing teacher at the University of New Hampshire. The day he handed it to me, I felt as if I had been awarded a very special honor. Don Murray helped to shape my identity as a writer.

If others help shape (or destroy) our identities, Don earned my gratitude decades ago.

In the late 60s, I met Don not in person but by reading his book A Writer Teaches Writing. It was a text assigned in a graduate course taught by Robert S. Tapply who, after reading one of my papers, said, "You ought to publish this." Me, submit a piece? Was it good enough? Did I have something important enough to say? Bob Tapply thought so, and if this brilliant teacher thought enough of my work, then perhaps I should, too.

In the 50s, my high school English teachers believed in entering student essays into every available competition. Since then, I have never gotten over the thrill of receiving an author's copy from whatever journal has accepted my work. That feeling began with my high school teachers submitting my work.

In the 40s, one of my favorite school assignments was to use our weekly spelling words in sentences. I loved to read, so I could create sentences that made the way-too-easy spelling word spin around itself. My teacher would walk up and down the rows, checking each student's work. I can still see her face as she read the sentence where I took the risk of using the word "endeavor" in a sentence. She asked me to say it to her, and satisfied that I knew what it meant and pronounced it correctly, gave out a pleased "Yes" and told me how to spell it. I was a writer.

The writing tasks keep coming at me regularly and I meet the deadlines, even the self-imposed ones. There is no genre that frightens me. I might fail. I will regroup and try again.

Thanks to these fine teachers and many more, I am grateful that I am still able to sit down and scribble lines (or walk around and say them), move to my word processor, and find joy in the word.