My favorite English professor taught me to write like Hemingway. Few words and active verbs make perfect sentences.
Senior year, I had to write an essay, one conveying a sense of time and place, in the style of Joan Didion. Inspired by my respect for the professor and enthralled by Didion, I wrote a harshly honest account – my struggles with weight, food, responsibility – and anger at parental pressure. peer pressure and career pressure. The title, “Often, That Problem Is Mine,” referenced a joke between my friend Scott – also in the class – and me. The totally awkward, poorly-constructed sentence summed up everything we wrote and thought about, while mocking the passive, unmanly writing styles we had certainly transcended.
My professor gave me an A and encouraged me to publish it. He seemed truly enthusiastic, convinced it would make a great op-ed in the New York Times.
Lacking confidence, and still fearing parents’ wrath, publishers’ rejection and professional repudiation, I demurred, dodged and dropped the idea.
I failed to follow-through, and now I wonder what might have been.
Often, that problem is mine.