Friday, September 8, 2017

Two Things My Students Have Taught Me

Happy Poetry Friday! My link to this week's roundup is at the end of this post.

With Labor Day behind us and a new school year started, I'm kicking off a TeachingAuthors series on "something I learned from my students (or from teaching)." Today I share not one, but two things my students have taught me.

1. Writing is Hard!

This lesson came from an adult student and I've quoted it in other blog posts. For so many years, I thought my writing struggles were due to my own inadequacies, not the demands of the craft. Now I realize this is an important lesson for two main reasons:
  • It's true. Writing IS hard. We can get stalled in so many ways, from figuring out what happens next in the plot to trying to decide how our main character looks/talks/walks to researching what flowers would be blooming during the time and place of the story. But "hard" doesn't mean "impossible." If we're persistent, we can succeed. 
  • Admitting this truth helps me let go of self-criticism. When I take longer than planned to finish a project, it's not because I'm stupid or lazy or a bad writer. It's simply because writing is work.
In researching what other writers have to say on the subject, I came across an article in Psychology Today by Dennis Palumbo, an author and former screenwriter who happens to also be a psychotherapist. In "Breaking News: Writing is Hard!" Palumbo says:
"the reality is that telling a good story with intelligence, emotional truth and narrative complexity is hard. Really, really hard."
The fact that writing is hard work is what leads many of us to procrastinate. As Jeff Goins says in his article "Writing Is Hard (Or Is It?)":
The difficulty of writing has nothing to do with pen and paper, monitor and keyboard. It has to do with heart and soul and the mind behind the words.
That’s the real hard part of writing, the part that will experience all kinds of internal resistance: convincing yourself that no excuse is good enough to not write.
I've discussed here before, though, how the best way to eliminate excuses is to focus on the joy of the process. Which brings me to the second lesson I've learned from my students.

2. Writing is Fun!

This phrase has been uttered numerous times by the young writers in my summer writing camps. And it's one of the reasons I keep teaching those camps--I need to keep hearing it! How are young writers able to focus on the fun? I think it's because they're simply trying to tell a story for their own enjoyment. They aren't burdened by needing to please anyone else.

So, there's the paradox: Writing IS hard, but it can be fun, too.
This image came up when I searched Pixabay for "Children Writing" 😊
My students have taught me that we can choose to focus on the joy of the process. And, as I've written before, that's the real key to productivity. I even created an image to help remind me:

I'm so glad to be the one kicking off this topic because the reminder to focus on joy comes at the perfect time for me. Just this week, I recommitted to making time for some "fun" writing (as opposed to the freelance work I do to pay the bills). I can hardly wait to get back to it.

Don't forget, this week's Poetry Friday roundup is at Matt Forrest's Radio, Rhythm, & Rhyme.

And when you go back to the hard work of writing, remember to:
Write with JOY!


Bobbi Miller said...

These two lessons are probably the most important to the writing process, and yet the most challenging to recognize. Thank you for your wisdom!

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for the feedback, Bobbi!