Monday, January 11, 2010

Evicting Your Inner Heckler

   Without  a doubt, high school physics was my all-time worst subject. Mr. Jones might have been lecturing in Sumarian, for all that I understood. Today, here is my total recall of nine months in his class:
     Newton's First Law of Motion:  An object in motion, will remain in motion. An object at rest will remain at rest.
    So how does this pertain to the subject of New Year's Writing Resolutions?
    A writer who writes will continue to write. A writer who goofs off will continue to goof off.
    For a lot of really valid (to me) reasons, last year was my least productive writing year ever. Initially, I thought my six word resolution would be "Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing." However, my mind kept adding the words "you big slug."
    Uh-oh.  My Inner Heckler was awake and throwing nasty stuff from the cheap seats.
    Ms Heckler's voice can curl shingles. "Hey you, Rodman" she brayed. " You're undisciplined, lazy and disorganized. You haven't had an original thought since George Bush, Senior was president. You're weak!"
     Isn't she lovely? There she is, a rogue radio station, jamming my creative frequency with unproductive negative thoughts. The scary part is that she sounds like me when I am nagging my daughter.
    Well, not exactly. You don't get a kid to clean his room by calling him a lazy slob. (At least not my kid.)  It's counterproductive.  I would certainly never use that tone of voice to inspire my students.
Would I ever, under any circumstances tell a student they were undisciplined or lazy or uncreative?
    No! I emphasize their strengths, and offer positive suggestions for improvement.  I nurture my students, helping them to find their creative selves. I balance criticism with praise.
    So why I can't I do that for myself? Why can't I try to look at my own work more objectively?  Why can't I tell Ms Heckler to get lost?
     This is not a new problem. At least once a year, my elementary school teachers would write on my report card "Mary Ann is her own worst critic."  Somewhere along the line I must have decided that if I expected the worst, I would never be disappointed. Which might make sense when you are eight, but not when you are....well, never mind how old I am!
     So, in order to help myself to be the writing embodiment of Newton's First Law of Motion, here is my real six word resolution: "Tell Ms Heckler, 'take a hike'." Only after I begin to treat myself with the same care, understanding and encouragement (and yes, an objective eye), can I become a Writer in Motion.
     Happy New Year, all you teaching writers. We're in this together!
     Mary Ann Rodman

*Addendum from Carmela: It's not too late to enter our contest. All you have to do is post a comment with your six-word resolution for the new year (or an update on the resolution you posted here last fall). For complete details, see April's post.


Sandra Stiles said...

As a teacher, and as yet unpublished writer I find I don't have the same confidence in my writing ability that I try to foster in my students. I don't know that I will ever completely think I can live up to those expectations but I can sure push them away at times. I am enjoying your site and learning a lot. I found you through the MotherReader Comment Challenge

pamanmat said...

When I was in school, for some reason I too would tell myself that my work wasn't that good. I only did it to protect myself, if I did get a bad grade or helpful comment to improve my writing or art work.

As a teacher, I noticed that many middle graders and high schoolers also hung onto this philosohy-Think negatively to avoid disappointment. I really tried hard to focus on the good parts of what they created, with a touch of some helpful comment.

But sometimes, I still continue to
be hard on myself and think, why did I ever think I could write a story. Especially after a critique or when I'm stuck.
But I enjoy the challenge and I'm learning. Pam Matar

StableGranny said...

Hey Mary Ann, I have goals not resolutions and number one on my list of goals is the word finish. I'm going to listen more talk less. Ride my horse more, play with dog more and do things with grandbabies more. Be a better friend and check on older members of family more often.

Irene Latham said...

"Writer in Motion" -- now there's a great phrase! Wishing you a more productive 2010, MA! Pardon me while I go shake the stew out of my own Ms. Heckler.

Amy Nichols said...

What a great post!! :)

Here's my resolution: "Keep my butt in the chair."

Jessica Leader said...

Found you through the Comment Challenge, MaryAnn Rodman of SCBWI midsouth fame. Loved this post. Loved how your elementary school teachers were right about you! Mine always said, "In her haste to finish, Jessica often makes careless errors." I don't think that's true of my writing, especially now, where the challenge is to keep going through the murky middle. So my six-word resolution is, "Muddle on past the middle, kiddle!"

mary ann rodman said...

Wow! Great feedback, fellow Writing Teachers! It's good to know there are so many kindred spirits out there. And to prove that I am staying a "Writer in Motion", I finished and sent out a picture book this week, plus spent a whole day doing the "housekeeping" work of writing...touching base with editors, teachers, librarians about this, that and the other. I may just make myself a Writer in Motion t-shirt.