Dean Wesley Smith has a post up over on his site on the dangers of being identified as having talent versus being told you have no talent.
I’ve been writing since I was eight years old. My best friend Rebekah was writing a play, and I wanted to do it because she was doing it. And it was fun!
So I wrote stories, and illustrated them, every opportunity I got. I even worked on a story before class (and sometimes during class, when I wasn’t supposed to). So I wrote a lot of stories, and created a girl detective like Nancy Drew who had adventures.
In 7th grade, the school offered a creative writing class. Rebekah signed up for it, and I also wanted to be in it. I mean, really, a class where you could write stories in class because you were supposed to?
The counselor, this older Chinese woman who always look like she’d been wrung out, summoned me to her office. She informed me that I could not take the class because I wasn’t “capable of it.”
Then I was dismissed.
I went back and cried.
In hindsight, it was probably because I wasn’t a great student. I’m visual spatial, so I’m pretty bad with the kind of details they focus on in school. I’d fail a computer bubble test by not noticing that I’d skipped one. I was also not a great speller. I don’t spell things out one word at a time; I have to picture it. But that’s not how they teach spelling.
Anyway, I probably could have given up, but I got mad instead. I continued writing, and in the 9th grade entered a school essay contest. I picked up an honorable mention.
I’m sure the counselor thought she was “helping” me or doing me a “favor.” But how can anyone tell from an 11-year old’s current skills what they will be like in the future? Maybe they would stop writing like Rebekah, or maybe they would a master at writing like Stephen King? No one is very good at that age, but doing something that promotes any kind of learning should always be encouraged.