I remember “A Time In Life” about a gazillion years ago when I was sitting in English/writing classes wishing “Scotty would beam me up” to a better place. I was more into math/science, so English/writing classes weren’t exactly high on my list of favorites. In fact, I couldn’t wait for the bell to ring so I could dash out of the classroom.
The reason I didn’t like English/writing classes is simple. My mind seemed to dance to a different tune from that of my teachers. When we were assigned to read books/poems, we would then have discussions about them in class. The reading part was actually enjoyable, but the discussion sessions never went very well for me. The teachers would always ask the question, “What was the author thinking when he wrote this?” I honestly didn’t give a flying zippity-do-da what the author was thinking.
While many of my classmates waved their hands begging for permission to answer the question, I always tried to hide behind the person sitting in front of me. I became very adept at sliding my six-foot-plus frame down in my desk trying to become invisible to the teacher. I remember my heart racing as beads of perspiration formed on my brow in anticipation of the teacher calling on me. I knew what would happen no matter how I answered the question.
Unfortunately, my method to become invisible wasn’t very successful, and I had to share my thoughts on many occasions. When I did, the teachers would look at me as if I had just come from another planet. They responded to my brilliant answer by saying, “Tommy, that’s not what the author was thinking.”
I never understood how my opinion, which I shared reluctantly, could be wrong. I probably didn’t endear myself to the teachers when I told them they didn’t know the author any better than I did, nor could they possibly have a better idea about the author’s thoughts. Unfortunately, the teachers made the rules for the class and had the last word. Somehow, my “Twilight Zone” way of thinking didn’t keep me from passing those courses. Yay!
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since those uncomfortable classroom moments, and I’ve had time to reflect on those days. Could it be my teachers actually knew what they were doing? Were they just trying to awaken some unutilized-creative segment of my brain? Did they see something in me that I didn’t? I don’t know exactly what they were trying to do, but they must have done something right. Not only do I now enjoy writing, I have authored two books.
I can’t help but wonder what would happen if I could visit those teachers today to discuss my own books. I know I would no longer try to hide or fear the question, “What was the author thinking when he wrote this?” However, I bet I know what those teachers would say in response to my answer.
“Tom, that’s not what the author was thinking.” Really!?! Beam me up, Scotty! Now!!!
Yep, I’m still visiting earth from another planet and have no idea why my teachers asked that particular question. Neither have I ever answered the question in a way that satisfied any of my teachers.
Okay, now it’s your turn to be on the receiving end of the questions. I know you’re sitting there waving your hands just like my classmates did when they were so eager to answer the question. Do you know what I was thinking when I wrote this? Do you even care what an author was thinking when they wrote a book? Do readers need to know? Does not knowing diminish the quality of the story? Share your thoughts and help solve the mystery.
Feeling blessed for having had teachers who cared enough to encourage me to think and do things I never dreamed I could—or would.
Tom Tatum – Author
Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels
Author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum