Last May I attended a Young Author Conference in northern Minnesota, where I was one of the presenters. Our keynote speaker, children’s writer/poet Brod Bagert of New Orleans, offered some of the best writing advice I’ve heard in a long time. Though I did a post on it back then, his golden suggestion may have been a bit hidden within the myriad photos and other news from that outing. I decided Brod needed another shot in the Peace Garden Writer limelight.
The gist of his message? Aim low. Aim very low. Set out with the goal of writing your very worst. Only then will you achieve success.
Sounds like a recipe for disaster, you say? Hogwash, says Brod. Forget about what your English teachers have been telling you, kids. Set the bar at the ankles, people. Because when you do, there will be only one place to go, and that’s up. And up and up and up!
Look, I can’t tell it like Brod does. This guy’s somewhat akin to one of my personal favorites, Shel Silverstein. He’s not only a writer but an ac-tor as well. Yes, a true thespian, as well as a former lawyer. And, he sings an amazing rendition of “Amazing Grace,” as some friends and I discovered during our time together.
So, without further adieu…Mr. Brod Bagert (drum roll please…)
Pretty cool huh? I mean, have you ever thought about it quite like that before? I hadn’t, in all my 42 years of life leading up to meeting Brod. It’s a gem of a concept.
I’m in a bit of a playful mood today, if you hadn’t noticed. Perhaps it’s because I’m going to be presenting to three groups of eighth-graders this afternoon. I’m in a youthful state of mind. I’m hanging with my inner writing child, remembering what it was like when I was 14 and my writing stunk like an old bottle of Channel 7.
Here’s some of the proof:
Meet Kareena, my diary from 1982. Yep, I named my journals back then. They were my friends, after all. They contained my deepest secrets. The boys who’d won my affection (but didn’t know), and all of my most embarrassing moments — like when our water pipes broke and we had to take showers at other people’s houses. (At 14, I thought I’d never recover…) Oh the stories I could tell (and have told!). So my diary of old is going to make a brief presentation at my presentation today.
I tell ya, it’s humbling to write your worst, but it’s also a necessary part of being a writer. Of being human, for that matter. Like Brod points out, sometimes it’s only when we offer our very worst that we can discover our very best.
Q4U: Writing can be a very emotional experience. Describe how you feel after reading your old journals and first drafts.
P.S. There’s still a week left to get your comment/name in for the drawing for the saints book. If you haven’t entered yet, here’s your chance! (Details here…)