I Haven’t The Slightest Idea

Tom Clancy said:

“I didn’t think there’s an English teacher in the world that doesn’t encourage you to write. All mine did.”

While Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Alan Dean, Clive Cussler all received encouragement to write from several teachers, others like Frederick Forsyth did not. Not one of Forsyth’s teachers spotted his talent, neither did Roald Dahl’s. From the age of fourteen, the annual comments about Roald’s ability in English composition were consistently awful. They suggested that he could not put a sentence together, let alone write an acceptable essay.

And Molly Parkin told her story:

“I must only have been about five, I think, and she (the English teacher) asked us all to shut our eyes, and to try and imagine what she was about to describe. ‘Those of you who see what I’m talking about have imagination, and you are to put your hands up, whilst your eyes are still shut.’ I put my hand up, and when I opened my eyes, to my terror I saw I was the only one in class. All the others turned and glared. She brought me out to the front of the class and said, ‘Now this is a child with imagination. She’ll probably be a writer one day.’ I remember her saying it very, very, clearly, and I hated it because after that, I became known as the teacher’s pet.
Later on, in my last school, I remember, I did an incredible piece of writing, which was meant to be, the ‘most important’ or the ‘most exciting’ day in my life. But the teacher called it disgusting, giving me nought out of ten. She continued to mark me consistently low.”

Which leads us to believe what Richard Joseph said on the matter:

“It may seem strange, but it is not absolutely necessary that you excel at English in order to become a top writer; being able to express oneself is one matter, being able to tell a good story well is quite another.”

To give just an example here’s what Arthur Hailey wrote.

“Two things fascinated me at school. One was science and the other English composition. I was never good at grammar. To this day I have the barest notion of the rules of grammar. I know what a noun is, a verb and an adjective. Every now and again I ask my wife, Sheila what an adverb is… and I think I recognize a split infinitive when I see one, but I couldn’t tell you what’s wrong. As for a participle, I haven’t the slightest idea what that is. I was really no good at that, and yet in composition, in a class of twenty to twenty-five, I was always number one.”


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6 Responses to I Haven’t The Slightest Idea

  1. It just goes to show you that one need not be an expert at grammar or have to know all the rules of English composition to be able to write . The technical stuff should be left to the professional editors…that’s what they’re for…that’s what they do. I believe that if you can clearly convey a good story, one written from the heart that connects with others, then you are a story-teller, which, to me, is the true essence of writing.

    Just my two cents…

    Thanks for sharing.


    • chichikir says:

      So true Kevin! As Ray Bradbury said:
      “Zest. Gusto. The most important items in a writer’s make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road he wants to go. I would only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto.” 🙂

  2. electricbohemian says:

    Me too, I’ve given up on grammar I like flow! I remember my English teacher he was really cool I swear he used to be an actor and he was very english and very scary, even so, it never felt like work in his class and I remember one day he asked what we wanted to be when we were older and I said, I want to be a writer. Now I never did excel in any class or job and I left that thought behind but as I grow older I realize I love writing and reading and so thats what I’ll dedicate my life around whatever it takes! One day I do hope to write a book just so I can send it to him and say.. look I did it!

  3. marisaporter says:

    Brilliant and inspirational as usual.

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