Editors and signposts

“Let the reader find that he cannot afford to omit any line of your writing because you have omitted every word that he can spare.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
C. S. Lewis

(tools of a trade / Julie Cook / 2015)

Many years ago when I was early on in my college career, I can vividly remember telling
my mother that I thought something was wrong with me–with the way I learned, or better yet,
the way I didn’t / couldn’t learn–that which today is referred to as a learning disability.

Often frustrated that learning, which seemed to come so easily to others,
did not come easy for me.
By all outward appearances I was quite bright and articulate, excelling in some areas,
struggling to merely get by in others.

Nevertheless, I mustered on often battling extreme frustration and disappointment.
Constantly studying, seeking out tutors, practicing, staying after class for help…
only to come up frustratingly short–
failing or nearly failing tests I just was certain I could pass.

We now know that not all learners process information the same as others.
It often takes a keen educator, who constantly observes and accesses their students,
to be able to present material, using a variety of delivery methods,
while hoping to tap into each students strengths.

I can still remember Mother simply shrugging, telling me that I was fine.
Yet today as I have watched my now grown son struggle throughout his entire life with an
early diagnosed Learning Disability and Dyslexia…
as I’m pretty certain I know from whence his troubles originated…

Math was my nemesis, as it remains so much to this day–
I made certain that I would pursue a career path which did not require Algebra or Geometry,
let alone something as obscure as Calculus.
Science, although I was intrigued by Science,
did not fair much better in my brain.
The Biology side of the Science world was more readily digested then that of Physics or Chemistry.
There were formulas, numbers, symbols and equations–
all things my brain just wouldn’t or couldn’t seem to unwrap.

Thriving however in the study of History and the study of the social sciences,
otherwise known as social studies,
I found myself enthralled by the endless stories which make history History.
Not necessarily with each and every aspect of history,
nor of the history of each and every culture,
yet for the majority of study,
history was the area in which I became a sponge.
I was equally intrigued with the political aspect of human history.
Throw in Theology and the history of the ancient faith of Judaism,
as well as that of the later emergence of Christianity,
and I was all ears.

English was ok but there were problems there as well.
Spelling was an issue, as those of you who read this blog well know.
Between spellcheck, autocorrect and my brain,
not all words in the blog posts are correct—
of which I greatly apologize.
And to my defense I never received a good foundation in sentence structure or grammar.
For whatever reason,
I never had a class or teacher who really taught grammar usage and writing as it
should have been taught.
It seemed that I usually ended up in a class where it was a given that all learners
had already been steeped in the basic foundations.
Sadly, I was the one learner in the lot who was not so versed.
Yet I did enjoy the literature aspect of English—with myself,
yearning one day, to be able to express my thoughts and ideas through writing as well.

Being able to express myself was always important. I found that writing,
first in a journal / diary form as a young girl, then as I grew older,
through the writing of letters.
It was in the writing of letters where I was finally allowed to fully express my thoughts.
It was a place my often frustrated brain could and would freely soar.

In the days before computers, word documents, pdf files, jpg images…
I alone helped to sustain the United States Postal Service by keeping them busily in business.
I loved buying and sending cards.
I would spend hours writing letters–especially letters that I would write,
more like epistles, to my godfather–
who is now 92 and a long retired Episcopal priest.
I have often referenced him and his influence in my life in previous posts.

The letters were often written with a myriad of misspelled words despite the large
dictionary by my side.
There were gaping gaps in the written thought as I thought much faster than I wrote.
The letters were laced with outrageous sentence structure,
which in turn would make any english teacher cringe,…
yet they were letters written with passion, honesty and humility.
And despite the holes, the poor sentence structure or the youthful angst,
my godfather would receive each letter expectantly, happily, and lovingly…
all without judgement of content or the editing of grammatical structure–
this from a man who made a living writing and speaking.

Our correspondence began when I was around the age of 15.
My early letters were laced with the pangs of innocence and adolescence.
Yet as I aged and matured those letters became more complex,
even troubling, as I fought my way, often with fraught emotion,
through the often tangled jungle of life.
I wrestled with my faith and beliefs.
Life was not always easy nor kind.
There were obstacles, illnesses, deaths, disappointments, poor choices, grave mistakes,
coupled with a few triumphs, glimpses of joy and moments of contentment.

Always with love and often, no doubt, with great frustration,
he would offer words of either encouragement, warning, or mere advice…
yet his words were always laced with love.
It was here, within the correspondence of a young girl, now grown woman, where I learned about unconditional love.

I never filtered my words or emotions yet perhaps today, looking back,
I see that it would have behooved me to have used a bit more restraint—
yet he never faltered or expressed disappointment.
My Godpoppa, the busy world at large Anglican leader,
would never specifically tell me what to do,
despite my often desperate queries.
He never would say yes or no but rather he’d offer wisdom woven with advice all of
which he hoped would allow me to eventually find my own way.
He was a signpost of guidance, of the miles thus traveled and of miles yet to be traveled.

So on this new day of this new week, in the early days of a brand new year—
do you need an editor or do you need a signpost?
Are you in need of direction or correction on this journey of yours known simply as life?
Or are you like most of us, simply indeed of both—
sometimes needing to be pointed in the right direction while receiving a bit of
much needed revision to your plots and plans…
May you make the most of the guidance, advice, love,
direction and assistance you receive along the way and may you be blessed,
as I have been,
with more signposts than editors.

11 comments on “Editors and signposts

  1. lorriebowden says:

    I love reading your posts!! And I thank you for sharing your vulnerability! ❤

    • Thank you Lorrie–I always shared, with my students when I was in the classroom, my struggles, tragedies as well as triumphs–I wanted them always to know that hurdles could be crossed–it might not be easy or the way they thought most direct, but getting over the pitfalls, struggles, and diversions in our path was and is possible—I suppose I’m just continuing life in the classroom via the blog 🙂
      I hope you have a wonderful Monday!!
      With love—Julie

      • lorriebowden says:

        It’s a beautiful thing!! I know a lot of people don’t share their truth for various reasons. I respect your honesty and your ability to teach us through your travels 🙂 Thank you!! <3.

  2. ptero9 says:

    I very much enjoy the easy flow of your writing Julie. As I write, I thank God for editing and spell check. I probably spend more time editing than writing the initial draft. 🙂

  3. A beautiful post… I heard once that learning to take constructive feedback and learn from it is the single greatest sign of a successful person, and I think there’s some truth to that! I’m so grateful for those who’ve taken the time to offer me guidance along the way… there’s always something new to learn, and learning to enjoy the process is vital!

    • Thank you John–it should be noted that before I ever hit that publish button, I have read, reread, corrected, and reread again…sometimes 10 or more times a post before I send it outward—and there are still typos, grammatical errors, you name it 🙂 —I even read the drafts out loud, listening to the flow and rhythm. Often times when I was in the classroom, working on a submission, letter or email I would read the draft out loud–it was either before or after school or during my planning block and inevitably a student or colleague, or even worse– the principal, would amble into my office wondering who in the heck I was talking to 🙂
      I’m just thankful that no longer do I have to have an 10 inch thick dictionary by my side but can check the Merriam Webster App 🙂 –some advantages to this digital world of ours—
      Again—Thank you John—much love

  4. Lynda says:

    Oh Julie, this is indeed a beautiful post – wonderful tribute to your Godfather and encouragement to your readers to be present to others in a nonjudgmental way. We are all gifted and challenged in many different ways – you are so creative in many ways. Thank you for sharing so honestly. As you can see from the comments, your readers are delighted to be the recipients of your thoughts and creativity on a daily basis. Blessings and prayers.

  5. Whatever your process is and no matter how many times you read, reread, and edit, it’s the end result that matters. And as these other commenters have said, your end result is always wonderful and many times stellar. So it’s kind of like the tortoise and the hare. It matters not how, when, or in what way you get there, as long as you get there. And, my friend, you always “get there” in your own unique and splendid way. The only one we should ever compete with is ourselves. The Lord values uniqueness and gifted each of us the way He did for divine purposes. So embrace your unique gifts and methods of getting things done for they were ordained by the One who made us all and He has anointed your abilites. Hugs and love, N 🙂 ❤

    • Thank you Natalie–struggles, so much of adolescents is a struggle, during high school was my impetus for wanting to teach—having a successful and fulfilling career doing so—I always preached that any and all things were possible–one just had to “want” it badly enough and be willing to work hard enough–and of course it helped having a sound faith in a loving God who we must always understand wants the best for us, yet His timing will always be key!!
      Hugs to you this oh so foggy day and now night—we are in the soup until about Thursday

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