There is nothing in a writer’s career that quite matches one’s first appearance in print. For me it was “The Emerson Effect” in the Twilight Zone Magazine in 1981. The title was a reference to the philosopher’s classic observation that if you can learn to believe in yourself, you can do almost anything.
The story was about a young man who worked in a post office, fell in love with another clerk, and was afraid to make an advance. The title was ironic because I was, without realizing it until years later, writing about myself. I’d always wanted to be a science fiction writer but had never tried because it just seemed beyond reach.
The truth is that we all underestimate what we can do. I saw it play out time after time during my ten years as an English teacher. And generally throughout my life. I got lucky. I had a wife who talked me into trying. Research has supported the conclusion. Psychologists visited various schools back in the seventies and in each selected a few students at random. They then informed the teachers that those students were exceptionally gifted. But the students were not to be made aware that the teachers knew. And they were not to be treated any differently from everybody else. Consistently those students performed well above what had been their levels in previous years. They picked up the sense of high expectations from their teachers, despite all efforts to keep it under cover. And they delivered.
Learn to believe in yourself and you can do almost anything. A teacher gets a fresh lift every time he sees a student excel. We’re at the beginning of a new baseball season. The effect of hitting a line drive into right center field at a critical moment is obvious from watching the guy raise a fist as he rolls into third base. For all of us, having a sought-after young man or woman show interest can take us to the stars.
All of that said, I can’t help mentioning that a new Academy novel, The Long Sunset, is being released this week. Hutch is back.
And Emerson had it right.