This past weekend, I had a two by four hit me in the head again, as life hammered another lesson home. It’s a lesson that I’ve learned before, but one that I clearly needed to learn again, hence the two by four.
On Friday morning, my alarm went off at 4 am, so I could catch the bus with my Forensics/Speech and Debate team to head six hours across the state of Nevada for our state tournament. Twenty plus schools headed north from Vegas and the rest came in from the northern half of the state. There’s not a whole lot in the middle of the state of Nevada, so it really was a “Civil War” type tournament, a true North vs. South contest.
There are seven speech events and three debate events to compete in. We could enter two kids/teams per event. Because many of my top competitors had a conflict this weekend and couldn’t go, I took some novice competitors and put them in events in which they hadn’t competed previously in order to fill as many slots as possible. We practiced, and I felt that since they were solid speakers, they would be fine. They were. In fact, one novice speaker made it into final rounds in Domestic Extemporaneous Speaking which means out of approximately 50 competitors, he was in the top six . . . statewide. He ended up placing sixth in finals, but a sixth place ranking at a state tournament is pretty impressive. In fact, I’d even say its college application worthy.
So how is this a lesson for me? The lesson is that (drumroll here) . . . skills transfer. If my student is an excellent debater, then it makes sense that he’s also a good, I mean excellent, extemporaneous speaker.
I have always wanted to write and when I was in high school, my mom encouraged me to write my stories down. Like many teenage girls, I ignored her and told myself that I couldn’t because what could she possibly know? I wasn’t good at it, and I knew everything - sorry Mom. When I was in college, I finally acquiesed and took a creative writing class. It was a disaster. I hated the class, the teacher, and the stories I wrote. It solidified to me that I wasn’t a good fiction writer. I could write essays and non-fiction with ease, but fiction threw me.
Last year, when I decided to start writing a novel as well as a blog I had to overcome this hurdle. I had thought for twenty years that fiction was out of my reach, so it was a BIG hurdle. To overcome it, I wrote a short story and a few scenes, and I learned that my writing skills transfer. If I can write, I can write . . . right? Though fiction requires a different skill set, the basics are the same. Writing is writing. This blog has taught me that lesson because I’ve asked myself numerous times over the last year, what is a blog exactly? What is the genre? It requires skills in essay writing, personal narrative, analysis, how-to writing, fiction and reflective writing. It requires solid writing skills in terms of structure, organization, grammar, and punctuation. In writing one to three blog posts a week over the past year, I have worked on these skills.
Though I’ve worked on these skills, I still question myself, wonder if what I’m doing is any good at all or if I’m writing an entire “practice” novel. Many people do, and then I begin doubting myself again which I have been doing over the past few weeks. My student’s success this weekend reminded me that I CAN do this. I’ve learned, yet again, that skills transfer. If he can successfully speak in a debate round and transfer those skills to an extemp round, then maybe I am not doomed to write essays my entire life because at the ripe old age of nineteen I decided that’s what I was good at.
Nobody else (besides my Dad who loved it – of course) has read my fiction, but I have learned over the past year to believe in myself and my writing. If I can write a blog for a year, then maybe I can write a novel too. I’ve only got about 8000 words to go . . . I can do this.