Jessica Tomer on Hemingway and "Driving Your Drive"

Noodle Expert Jessica Tomer discusses her admiration for Ernest Hemingway and explains the importance of "driving your drive."

Who would you pick, alive or dead, to be your teacher for a year? What would you want to learn?

Tough decision! A ton of writers and journalists rise to the top of my list. Forced to pick one person, I'd go with Ernest Hemingway. It would probably mean learning more through observation than lecture! But I would love to travel with him and listen to him talk to people. Along the way, we would discuss his thought process in writing, his days as a field journalist, and his adventurous life. The cool thing about Hemingway, though, is that I actually can learn so much from and about him by reading his extensive works. Which I do.

What is one small piece of advice that has had a big impact on your life?

This is a weird one: "Drive your drive." It was my father's motto in teaching me how to drive a car. It was basically his reminder to stay calm, focus on what's ahead, and not worry about who's behind you. And it may sound silly outside the context of teaching a 15-year-old how to change lanes, but it stuck with me. It always pops into my head when I need to, well, stay calm, focus on what's ahead, and not worry about what other people are doing!

Where would you send a student who hasn't traveled before?

Travel is a magical thing, because no matter who you are or where you go, you can learn from the experience. So I could say, "Go to Egypt or Laos or Brazil." But instead I'll just say, "Go!" Go anywhere. It doesn't have to be the opposite side of the world or even the opposite side of the country. You don't have to travel far to have a meaningful experience. Students — everyone — should try to visit as many places and meet as many people as they can. The more different from your home turf, the better.

When was a time that you failed academically, and what did you learn from the experience?

It was a required government class my sophomore year of college, with a notoriously tough and scary professor. He pushed us hard, expecting an in-depth analysis of the material I had never experienced before. Not only that, but our final grade hinged on just two exams. Two. When I (and most of the class) bombed the first exam, I thought I was doomed to fail. But after months of pridefully thinking I could figure things out on my own, I finally took advantage of his office hours to ask for help. He literally said to me, "What took you so long?"

Just one visit with him illuminated what I was missing and what he was looking for. I also discover he wasn't so scary after all, and I ended up getting a B in the class. Since then, I have been a huge proponent of meeting with professors. And not just in times of academic peril. Knowing how and when to ask for help is an important skill in life, to be sure, but I also met with professors to learn more about what they do. In the process, they offered valuable career and life advice.

Why did you go into your field, and how is it different from what you expected?

Writing stories has always been my jam. I decided I could make a bigger difference in the world by telling the stories unfolding in current events as a journalist. That's what I studied in college (at journalist haven Emerson College in Boston, woop woop!). There, I also discovered I had a nerdy knack for copyediting. What I never expected was finding my niche as an editor out in the "real world."

I love working with other writers to hone their work and deciding what stories we should cover. It's storytelling on a macro level, and it's pretty awesome. Plus, I discovered all this while working in higher education (not at a traditional journalism outlet, like a newspaper), and it has been incredibly rewarding. I know how stressful and joyful and important the college search and application process is, and helping our readers on that journey means a lot to me.

Article Topics: