Sunday, May 18, 2008

the teachable moment

Today I did a little bit of "communal writing" w/ my good friend Susan at her house, and had a moment when I crossed paths w/ my students on a psychological level. I'm currently drafting a proposal for a non-fiction book, and asked Susan to look at it, being that she's had experience in this area, having been successfully awared a textbook contract. Susan is one of those people I trust implicitly to read my writing and give honest, critical, insightful feedback. And yet, she's also one of the people I want to please, being that she's both a colleague and a friend, and I highly regard her in both roles.

Thus, when I showed it to her, a pang of anxiety was bubbling inside. God, she's going to think I suck. I'm the worst writer on the planet. She's going to wonder how I made it this far... Ok, so it wasn't that bad, and I wasn't that neurotic. But it was a good reminder of what my students go through as insecure, inexperienced writers. My insecurity in that moment had little to do w/ my talent as much as it did w/ my inexperience and unfamiliarity w/ the genre of book proposals. It requires a cognitive muscle that is not used (or stretched so tenuously) in creative writing -- at least not for me. Which is precisely the struggle my students face -- the unfamiarity (not only w/ academic genres, but also language, cognitive abstraction, mechanics, etc.), not to mention the desire to please coupled with the reluctance to be vulnerable. It's moments like that when I want to show them my proposal: Look at my draft -- it's messy. It lacks focus and organization. It rambles a little. There are things that need to be added. There are things that have no business being there. I don't want anyone to see this -- I understand where you're coming from! Hell, I'm there!

Nevertheless, Susan responded with feedback that was indeed helpful, insightful, objective, everything I needed. And, just as my students are often surprised to discover, I found out that it wasn't as bad as I thought it was. In fact, it's well on its way, she said. And I feel better. I'm looking forward to revising. My confidence is restored. By god, I can do it after all!

And now, a word from our sponsor... Stacey's got an hour's worth of last night's discussion at QRB ready to go on podcast. Just go to Yousendit at to download and listen -- was nice to listen as an attendee (I'm looking forward to the video version as well)! I'm also giving Stacey's website a plug: -- I've visited the site and it's quite a resource, especially for aspiring writers who find the publishing process mystifying. enjoy!

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