A Good Writer

January 30, 2008
By Nick Hogan, Colgate, WI

I casually walk into the lunch room, swarms of students scrambling to get into lines for food, only to witness ahead of me a group of kids gathered around a plain wooden table along the far wall. Ah, today must be the day, I think to myself. It may prove to be an interesting lunch period.
If words were people, I would marry them. However, since I have no desire to find myself in a straight jacket, I will simple say I like to write just about anything. I’m one of those kids who enjoy writing papers. My teachers always told me that I was a decent writer− but I never believed them. I mean, isn’t it their job to lie to me and tell me I’m good at something, regardless of how pitiful a work of literature it may be? I just got A’s on my papers, like every other class (except math), so it was no big deal.
Then one of my teachers pushed a little further. He asked me to write for the Orange and Black, the school newspaper. However, I didn’t have time to devote an entire class period each day to writing, so I took the next best option- I decided to write a letter to the editor. It just so happened I knew the Opinion Editor quite well, as well as the advisor of the newspaper, so I was sure to get published. Originally, I was hesitant at the notion of being published for hundreds of kids to scrutinize my writing. But, like a poorly built tunnel, I caved.
I thought long and hard about a topic, bouncing my ideas off people until something stuck. It was something that was the bane of all who ever walk the hallways- people who didn’t walk the hallways, the ones who slowed everyone else down. And so I had my target. Naturally, my sarcasm and metaphoric excesses took over, comparing backpacked kids to camels as one example. I wrote it in such a way that people would eventually call it satire, which, within reason, it was. After some final polishing, I submitted my letter.
As I walked into the lunch room that day, the kids gathered around to get copies of the paper. Needless to say, I was nervous. I sat all lunch period crouched, waiting for some mob of upset slow-walking kids to come attack me. But, none came.
I walked over to one of the all exclusive female lunch tables to socialize with them, as I did every day. Immediately, responses and laughter vacillated. “Nick, this is so true!” amidst various “Oh my God’s” and “It’s so funny!”
A sigh of relief. They liked it. It was okay? I was almost proud, but these were friends, so they were potentially biased, much like the teachers.
That Friday, I attended a school football game. I go merely to socialize… the oxen running around the field are just a distraction. As I was talking with one of my friends, she said something along the lines of, “Nick! Shut up!” Calling me by my first and last name was no big deal, as that’s simply how I am addressed. I’ve never figured out why. But as the words left her lips, an anonymous voice from behind me spoke up, “Wait, you’re Nick?” I turned to face the boy whom I had never seen before. “I loved what you wrote in the O&B! You’re a great writer!”
I was baffled. I was dumbfounded. I felt glorified- and maybe a little creeped out. I quickly stuttered out a, “Thanks, I try,” to make myself sound cool and turned awkwardly back around.
People had said I was a good writer, but I thought that was just an obligatory compliment, nothing which held value. But, in that moment, I suddenly felt a new self-worth, a new skill I didn’t know I had. I finally felt confidence in an ability that I had brushed aside as nothing more than luck or inflated grade systems for years.
I look back on it today and find it odd: it took a complete stranger to make me realize I was a good writer.

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