Family Life / The English Teacher / The Social Network

The Struggling Writer

In examining the writing life I am trying to live these days, I find myself occasionally reading through what I’ve written over the past couple of years. Now that September has arrived, it’s time for me to introduce and oversee the writer’s workshop environment with over half my students, and the particulars of the writing process takes up a good bit of my waking thought. Draft. Revise. Seek feedback. Revise again. Polish. Submit. Repeat. The feedback and submittal parts never cease to stir up heart palpitations. Blogging for me  is no different than my students turning in a piece for assessment. I know how they feel when they have to submit a paper. (a bit queasy!) It’s made me more aware as a teacher, and my students know that, like them, I’m just another struggling writer, who happens to also teach writing. The following bit reveals my own insecurities as a writer-wannabe.  Enjoy!

Writing this week has felt like an all up-hill trek.  I know the analogy well – I’ve been to the Rockies.  It’s hard work just walking around out there – climbing stairs gave me an outrageous headache.  And as for going up a mountain – let’s just say that the effort as well as the view were breath-taking.  I can’t remember enjoying the flat earth of Indiana more than when we returned to it after a week at 10,000 ft.  And writing?  Well, I’ve managed to read a couple of wonderful passages this week – and while I didn’t lose my breath, I didn’t worry about losing my lunch either.  My own writing has not only been miserably hard work, it’s also given me some acute nausea.  Reason?  I gave over my nearly finished pieces for comment.  To my son.  Egad. 

 Guts galore, or absolute foolishness.  Only these can accurately define my decision to seek Luke’s feedback.  I am either confident that what I’ve written is ‘good enough’ or I expect kindness because, after all, he is my son.  Then, sickeningly, I realize this: I was the one who introduced him to great stories.  I was the one who took opportunities to correct his work in grade school and junior high.  I was the last English teacher he had in high school.  And I was merciless.  Now, he’s a first year law school student.  What was I thinking I’d get other than unflagging honesty and a smidge of hubris? 

So, a swallowing of my own pride, a rightful nudging to a lower peg, and a fresh acknowledging of this:  good writing takes effort, and sometimes the effort is exhausting.   And effort alone does not guarantee excellence.  I was surprised to learn that from my son.  But come to think of it – it’s what I taught him.  

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3 thoughts on “The Struggling Writer

  1. Good for you! That’s what a good parent should do though, I believe. And to refuse to try something for fear of rejection is to be afraid to live. Rejection is a lesson, as I’m sure you know. Fresh perspective is always instructive, and from someone who knows you can definitely help you see your work in a new light. I’ve always had a lot of confidence in what I’ve submitted, never been queasy, but I’m sure when I start sending out manuscripts, I’ll be right there with you.

    • I have to laugh at myself (not always easy) when I consider the trials that some go through, and I get worked up over my writing. Perspective matters, and sometimes I lack the proper one. My writing over the past 3+ years was largely academic — working on a master’s degree. LOTS of opportunity for critical assessment. No wonder I wanted to throw up! 🙂 Thanks so much for your warm encouragement! And thanks for reading commonchapters! Come and visit again!

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