I finished a new essay the other night. Writing it was more of a struggle than usual, and I felt myself reaching to find the descriptions that usually come easy to me. The musicality of the sentences wasn’t there. The whole thing felt like a mess, really, and a poor reflection of what I know I can do. Needless to say, this bummed me out.
When I picked at it to revise, I still felt like the essay was missing something. I was projecting the visceral stuff that I wanted the essay to do because it just wasn’t there. Again, a huge downer. I felt like I missed the mark.
Today was my first day back in the office after a short break, so I had to switch back into professor mode and start digging into the Final Portfolios from last month. I only got through a few before something stood out to me. I mean, neon sign kind of standing out. As always, I assign a short reflective essay that each student approaches in their own unique ways, and one of my best students had written something fantastic.
I’m not sure why this stuck out to me like it did, but his comment had that “special something” that touched me. I thought about it a lot at lunch and I figured it all came down to confidence. He learned to have confidence in his writing during his short time in my class, and truly believes that he is better after completing the course. I related so much to his description of beginning in fear; when I started writing that essay I had all sorts of fears and doubts spinning in my head. You can’t describe things like you used to. Your use of language is rusty. You can’t write more than a few pages at best before your story sputters and dies.
He describes moving from fear to confidence as taking place over the entire month he was in my class, but I realized that in order for me to grow and write through whatever it is I’m going through, I need to make that mental transition now. And I did. I went back into the pages I had written and, with the proper distance and confidence, really picked apart the things that were holding back the essay from being great.
My student is right. Having a positive attitude about what you’re creating makes a huge difference. Last month I decided it was time to work on a new nonfiction collection, and I’m excited for the discoveries ahead.
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