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What My Father Taught Me About Writing

This past Sunday was Father’s Day. There have been a rash of blogs about fathers and how they affected their children’s lives. I thought I’d add mine to the mix, but with a writer’s slant.

When I was growing up and working on a school assignment, I’d often want to use a word I didn’t know how to spell. You have to realize that this was way before the advent of computers where misspelled words are often automatically corrected by computer software programs. My available resources were a beat up dictionary and my parents, who didn’t have more than an eighth grade education. I’d usually ask my dad how to spell a word since Mom claimed she never knew. Every time I asked, Dad’s answer was always, “Go look it up in the dictionary.”

“How can I look it up, if I don’t know how to spell it?” I’d whine.

“Figure it out,” Dad would say.

At the time, I thought Dad didn’t know how to spell and he was ashamed to tell me. So, I’d get the dictionary, look up the word using phonetics, and eventually I’d find the correct spelling.

Years later, when my own daughter would ask me how to spell a word, my answer to her was more often than not, “Go look it up.” And it was not because I couldn’t spell.

You see, after years of searching the dictionary for illusive words, somewhere along the way I became a great speller. Thanks to my father.

Today it doesn’t matter whether my father could spell or not. Today I see there was wisdom in my dad’s avoidance of handing me an answer. Instead of relying on someone to give me an answer, Dad taught me to go figure it out on my own. What a great lesson that was for a future writer.

Thanks, Dad.