Decades ago when I was living and teaching in Dubai with my husband I had enrolled in this correspondence course with the Writing School in England. At that time, Dubai was not what it is now, and all correspondence was done by mail. Every time I completed a writing assignment and mailed my envelope I would wait impatiently for my tutor’s corrections and comments.
Now when I look at my bookshelf in my room, filled with folders carrying assignments and notes from different tutors of all the correspondence courses I have taken with different magazines and schools, I have one regret. What a waste of time they all have been.
I understand now that all I have collected over the years are encouragements and promising rave reviews. I failed to recognize that the world is teeming with false prophets ready to prey on desperate young wannabes like myself. If only I had spent that time writing and writing and writing.
I am still suffering a slow and painful death by encouragement as I wait for my inevitable “big break.” Only now I am a little bit less reluctant to let myself be broken by false promises.
This reminds me of a story I read a long time ago in one of my Writer’s Digest magazines.
Leonard Witt, editor of The Complete Book of Feature Writing, was overjoyed when he sold his first freelance article back in 1971.
Witt, 27 at the time, was a substitute elementary school teacher who enjoyed writing. He wrote an essay about the differences between sounds and noises. Seeing an add by BiPlanes in search of a freelance article he mailed his masterpiece.
Two weeks later, the editor called to say Witt’s essay had been accepted; he would be paid 15$. While picking up his check and a copy of the paper, he was surprised to find it was explicitly pornographic. Sharing the story with a friend a few years later, the friend said.“Ah, that’s easy. At the time the law required that all publications have at least a smattering of redeeming social value. Your essay must have enabled the paper to meet that requirement.”