It was a communications class with a new professor by the name of Dr. Hensley. Hensley got up, stared at us until we quieted down, and said:
“I am not Mr. Rogers. I don’t like you the way you are… I want you to be better.”
I thought, Okay, where did they find this guy? Is he serious?
He was serious. He refused to let us slack off, turn in half-hearted work, or show up to class late. He meant business.
My first paper I turned in – a paper I thought I breezed through – had red marks all over it. My grade mark – a D. Dr. Hensley wrote on my paper, “Mr. Arnold, I expect better work than this.”
But I didn’t do better. In fact, my next paper I got an F. He wrote, “You are currently the worst student in my class. Is this all I can expect from you?”
Well I had it. I was out to prove to him I was not the worst student.
My grades steadily improved until one day, toward the end of the semester, I got an A. He wrote, “Mr. Arnold, I knew you could do it. You are the most improved student in the class.”
I owe Dr. Hensley, more than anyone, for pushing me and inspiring me to be a writer. In fact, a few years after I graduated, I met with Dr. Hensley in his office and told him I wanted to be a writer. He was so encouraging. He gave me books on writing and told me I should attend a Christian Writer’s Conference, which I did.
I dedicated an entire chapter in my book, Pilgrims of the Alley, to Dr. Hensley.
I think as writers we need to be pushed; to be reminded to give our very best; to not settle or be content with mediocrity.
Here’s why being pushed is imperative:
- It raises the bar (the standard) for excellence. As human beings it’s natural to drift, to be passive. But when someone pushes us, it motivates us to reach further and higher.
- It teaches us discipline. When Dr. Hensley wrote I was the worst student in the class, I wasn’t okay with that. So I worked my tail off and my grades improved. The Bible talks about self-control being a fruit of the Spirit. But it’s so easy to let this one slide or brush it off saying, “I’m just too busy” or “it’s good enough.” God wants us to give our very best, not to settle.
- We respect those who push us, who refuse to see us settle and our dreams turn out unfilled. Why? Because they care about us and our God-given potential. Is it easy to hear constructive criticism or ways we need to improve? No. But it’s vital if we are to grow.
With that said, I’ve had many push me the last few years to write my book, Pilgrims of the Alley: Living out Faith in Displacement. And now my dream has become a reality as it released on Monday, February 18, 2013.
Ultimately, God pushed me to do this. He was the One who inspired me to write and put it on my heart to share my voice.
So my encouragement to you: Don’t give up on your dreams! Write for God’s glory. Push yourself. Allow others to push you so you can be the best at what God has called you to do.
Questions: Share of a time when someone pushed you to be a better writer? How have you seen God push you?
* Image credit: ‘Ajnagraphy’ (Creative Commons)