Sep 24, 2014

On Getting Better

In the last few weeks, I have handed back the first essays and stories from my students. They are often horrified at what I place back in their hands, not because of the score (I grade the first assignment very generously) but because of the things that I pointed out that they know but don't. Many of these students (especially those in the honors class) want to toss the essay and pretend it never existed, but I tell them to keep it.

"You see," I tell them, "if you don't save the first essay, you never all the way believe me when, at the end of the year, I compliment the growth you've made as a writer."

I'm about 3 1/2 weeks into the healing process for my broken hand. It still hurts often, it still restricts many of the things I want to do, or requires some ingenuity to re-learn how to do something. To say it is frustrating would be an understatement.

And yet.

Yesterday, I was able to lift my laptop bag and hand it to my left hand. Minimal wincing. I could maneuver a knife through an apple and turn the key in the ignition.

It doesn't feel like I'm getting better because there are so many things I can't do.

But I am.

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So it is with our writing. There are various reactions when writers go back and look at first drafts, unseen stories, brainstorms that never quite manifested as prose. But nearly everyone who goes back to an early version will make comments about silly mistakes, weak concepts, ridiculous dialogue, etc.

The reason they notice these things is because they have gotten better.

It is easy to be frustrated with writing. It is easy to notice all the things we haven't done, can't do.

It is easy to focus on the negative.

So, on this lovely first Wednesday of Autumn 2014, I want you to take a minute and think about how you have gotten better in the last week, month, season or year. Go ahead, celebrate the small victory. Post your accomplishments in the comments and I'll celebrate with you.

After all, the last three weeks have given me several opportunities to master the index finger clap.

4 comments :

Susanne Drazic said...

Hi, Tasha. Yes, it is easy to focus on the negative. I'm so glad to hear that your hand is on the mend.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Your students are lucky to have you. Glad that hand is getting better. Patience is not always easy to come by.

Andrew Leon said...

I tell mine to keep their stories because you can't ever tell what idea may be something you want to use later. Too often, they chunk the babies with the bath water just because they need to work on their grammar and/or punctuation.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad your hand is improving.
If I were to look at the first draft of CassaStar, I'd be horrified. I know I've improved.