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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Inspiration/Block (for the writer) (05/20/10)

TITLE: One Thousand Attempts
By susan woolen


At the age of seven, I had received only three months of formal schooling
when my mother abruptly pulled me out of school and tutored me herself. One of my school teachers had looked at my rather small body and over-sized head and had pronounced me “addled” with learning disabilities.

But I was an avid reader, especially science books. I wanted to learn the “why” about everything. I began conducting “science experiments” to find answers.

One Spring, while walking along the shore of my family’s little farm pond, I discovered a beautiful mother goose sitting watchfully on her nest of eggs. By the end of the day, five, fluffy, golden gooslings emerged from under her wings. I loved those waddling, baby geese. I soon found another nest of eggs and decided to sit on them to hatch them myself. I was horrified and ran home screaming when all I got was a pants bottom full of smashed, raw eggs .
During another experiment, I convinced a good, but gullible friend to drink a tall tumbler of stomach settling medicine which was supposed to produce gas. I hoped it would cause him to fly above the ground. He didn’t fly.

I set up a science “lab” in the baggage car of a train conducted by a friend.
Unfortunately, a glass jar of chemicals I had stashed there slipped off the rickety table and caught the train on fire.

About this time, I decided that if I were to become a real scientist I needed a real science lab. To earn money to build it, I took a job as newsboy on a train that left the station at 7am and didn’t return until 9:30pm. The work was exhausting but worth it. I earned enough money finally to set up a small lab and forge ahead in the work I loved.

Science experiments/inventions came easily to me and I rarely lost the drive or patience to see them through to completion. Over the years, I invented a telegraph line between my and a neighbor’s homes, an electrical vote recorder, a stock ticker, transmitters, a phonograph, and a mimeograph machine - all of which were successful and patented.

Then came the invention to top all the others. Newspaper reporters called me a madman and I was often ridiculed for my work. I wanted to invent a safe, permanent source of indoor light. At the time, people in the cities lit their homes with gas or oil burned in little glass lamps; while whale oil, candles, and kerosene lit the homes of the rural areas.

Using a small, glass globe the size of a soup bowl, I began by burning various types of filaments placed inside the globe. Over the next ten years, I experimented with filaments made of paper, cardboard, wood, metal, coconut hair, thread coated with glass, a hair from a friend’s beard, bamboo, most of which burned for only fifteen minutes or less, giving little light.

Then one glorious day, after more than one-thousand attempts to find the right filament, I found tungsten, a type of metal, which burned for over forty hours inside the glass globe. To my joy, I had invented the first lightbulb.


Thomas Edison’s unceasing efforts to engineer the tremendously successful lightbulb are very parallel to a writer’s deep, inspiration to write a good paragraph or article or book. The first attempts might fail and the writer’s thoughts may be blocked, but only temporarily. Inspiration shines through to motivate the writer to try again and again and again. The ultimate goal of creating the writing that inspires/helps others is achieved. The lightbulb is turned on and it burns brightly.


Author’s note: Research for this writing came from great Experimenters by William Bixby; and yes, the “g” in “great” is small case because the title of the actual book is written that way.

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This article has been read 333 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Yvonne Blake 05/31/10
Interesting facts about Edison! I like how you wrote it in first person POV. Great writing.
Mildred Sheldon05/31/10
Very good job of staying on point. You may suffer writers block but it to shall pass.
Dusti (Bramlage) Zarse06/02/10
His mother's hair must have turned gray at an early age! Mine would have! But look what he achieved. Great topic. Great writing. Well done.