The biggest writing challenge I ever faced

Writing pens

Writing pens image courtesy of jdurham, Morguefile.

When it comes to my daily life, I have my times of fearlessness. I face DC metro commuter traffic with nary a qualm (we call it “combat driving” around here and caffeine helps), I’ve traveled solo through New England, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and other parts of the planet, and I’ve been known not to panic when the Advent wreath at my church catches on fire.

Sometimes writing this blog is a bit difficult. (!) The hardest part is to stare at the terrifying blank “Add New Post” screen and come up with something to say that’s fresh, original, entertaining and informative. My blog ideas come from books I’ve read or conversations I’ve had with my real-life people or with fellow bloggers. Sometimes, it’s just anything that occurs to me and that I think would make for an interesting blog post.

But by far, the biggest writing challenge that I’ve EVER faced was in college. I had to write 14 term papers…in the space of two weeks.

In case you missed that, I’ll repeat: Fourteen. Term. Papers. In. Two. Weeks.

(*runs off to corner to scream in remembered terror*)

By some bizarre coincidence (or maybe it was Fate’s way of snickering at me), my college professors decided to set the deadlines for these papers within the same two-week period. I was taking several English classes to fulfill the requirements for my major, plus I had a modern dance class. Two of the papers I wrote were for the dance class; these involved watching documentaries and analyzing the dancers’ performances.

It was brutal, but I got all of the papers done and they did okay. And since then, I figured that if I could survive that experience, I could handle anything else that came my way, professionally or personally.

A dozen newsletters due in a week? No problem, boss. Three advertising campaigns with several sets of revisions? I’m on it.

But the best part of that experience is that I got to know some famous African-American dancers such as Sandman Sims, Honi Coles and the Nicholas Brothers. Howard “Sandman” Sims was a tap dancer who used sand to amplify the sound of his steps while dancing. Charles “Honi” Coles, another great tap dancer, you’ve probably seen: he’s the bandleader in Dirty Dancing.

As for the Nicholas Brothers (Fayard and Harold), see below. (To get to the really amazing part, skip to 2:22.) They were incredible athletes. Wow. I’ve never seen anybody else have the ability to do what they did in this dance scene. (One take, NO rehearsal, according to a YouTube video interview with Fayard!)



Filed under Writing

30 responses to “The biggest writing challenge I ever faced

  1. Fabulous. Thank you so very much!

  2. That is a LOT of term papers. I hope they weren’t very LONG papers. I could rip through the 3 to 5 pagers, piece of cake. But the 30 to 40 pagers actually required research. Not something I could just toss off at the last minute. I was a very “last minute” student.

  3. Oh, oh, the inimitable Nicholas Brothers – heaven!

  4. Reblogged this on First Night Design and commented:
    Reblogged purely because I love The Nicholas Brothers. Forget Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly, these brothers were the tops when it came to dancing in Hollywood!

  5. While I never had 14 papers due in just a short span of time–I do remember in my third year journalism class–most of the class had not done their assignments and the prof said he would fail us if we did not get them done–and he was really angry with us because journalism is deadline-based writing–I hunkered down and finished all the assignments in one weekend (there must have been 7 or 8) and rescued my mark–I only got a B that term–my tardiness ruined my A–but at least I did not get an F.

    I do not think I slept that weekend.

    Love the dance sequence.

  6. The most I had to write in a short period was five papers, and I thought that was insane. My son just told me a few days ago that he had two weeks to write 11 papers, and I about fell over. Of course then my anal nature started wondering at his definition of “paper.” I’ll have to send him a link to your blog!

  7. Re: The Nicholas Brothers: I have never seen anything like that in any sport at any time, or any dance at any time or anywhere else at any time. I think I saw someone do one or two splits in the course of their routine, but I have NEVER seen anyone do as many as these two did -On the stage, off the piano, couple more on the floor oh and not to mention the Jumping Over Each Other down six two foot high steps, couple more full splits on the floor again and a full split SLIDE down the stairs. Did they develop the stairs for the routine or the routine for the stairs? Either way it was phenomenal! So many things in this world I am ignorant of and poorer for not knowing – thank you for these riches.

    • And that, my friend, is why blogging exists — to share great stuff like this with each other! If you’re interested, Camille Cosby (Bill Cosby’s wife) did an interview with Fayard in regard to this dance for the movie “Stormy Weather”. The video is available on YouTube if you’d like to see it.

  8. Fourteen papers in two weeks!?! I loved college, but that was one thing I hated, the fact that you’d get bombed like that and have to sacrifice quality for quantity.
    Fascinating post. I’d never heard of these guys.

  9. WOW WOWEE – what a performance! How I always longed to tap dance — tai chi is no substitute!!!!

  10. LOL, somewhere in that 14 paper deadline there had to be a bit of procrastination. 🙂 If you are like me a hard-and-fast deadline is not necessarily a bad thing if things are to get done.

  11. As my daughter is one, I can appreciate the challenges of an English major, but as a grad student in Demography, I had to write term papers that relied on statistical calculations derived from computer programs I wrote for a main frame….help!!

    Re dancing….Cagney and Hope together can’t be beat. Gregory Hines son (?) is performing here in NOVA.

    I did the commute downtown from Alexandria, and then to the Federal Center in Suitland MD from Arlington for over 35 years. It can only be worse these days.

    • Yes, but at least Metro looks like they might be improving the situation somewhat with the Silver Line.

      I agree — Cagney and Hope were great, too. I’ve never seen Gregory Hines’ son; I’ll have to look him up!

  12. That dance sequence is so amazing. I can’t believe I’ve never seen it before! Just incredible.

  13. Jaclyn

    Yowsa! That’s a lot of term papers. I can see how now, you’d feel like you can do anything! (I had a writing and term paper-heavy major, so I can commiserate, but I don’t think I ever had that many papers due in such a short time span.)

  14. DanG

    We need more tap dancing restaurants!


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