Today was Comic Writing and Art class and, like usual, my students were happy to do the drawing and doodle work but feeling reluctant when it came time to write. At one point a student told me "but I don't write well". I had to pause before reacting because I was really hurting for my student and I wanted to make sure I said the right thing. I asked him why he thought he didn't write well. He couldn't give me an answer. But, I could tell that somewhere behind his words was an untold story of rejection. At some point in his young life, someone had seen something he wrote and dissed it.
One of the reasons I started teaching youth writing classes was because I felt like most kids’ writing is underappreciated. They are very talented and not at all pretentious like most adult writers. They also don’t tend to need coddling when they write well. However, they do need positivity when they do write. This is one of the reasons that writers tend to be so fearful of rejection and often dismiss their own talent. Criticism knocked them out and they never got back up and it most likely happen somewhere between 6th-12th grade. It is so unfortunate, isn’t it! Another reason I wanted to teach kids is because I wanted them to have a good time and see that writing is scary. For some reason a lot of kids these days are afraid of writing!
So how do we tame that beast of fear that keeps us from appreciating our writing? More specifically, how do we overcome the feeling of not being good enough?
- First, you have to give yourself room to make mistakes. No one is perfect. Nothing you write will be perfect either. Even grammar Nazis don’t write well. Yeah, you heard me lady with the red pen and highlighter, you don’t write well either.
- Second, you have to learn from your mistakes. If you know you aren’t perfect and will make mistakes you can be okay with yourself when you mess up. That also means you can learn from those mistakes because you aren’t wasting energy beating yourself up.
- Third, you have to practice. If we give ourselves room to mess up and then we learn from those mess ups, we need to keep practicing. Practice is where we make more mistakes and learn. It’s a never-ending cycle. But at the end of each cycle we get better.
- Four, you have to keep a positive attitude. Self-explanatory really. You need to be happy and positive, whether you are critiquing your own work or someone else’s. Criticism and critiques aren’t the same thing, just as discipline and punishment aren’t. Accept critiques with an open mind and not from a place of fear. Give critiques from a place of respect and love, not smug superiority.
- And, five, you have to believe you can. No one can make you believe you are a good writer. Yes, there might be better writers out there, but so what. Stop being so competitive that you can’t appreciate what you do. You should be happy with your talent and believe that you can do. No one is successful unless they believe in themselves.
When I go back to class in a few weeks to teach my students again, I am going to review these ideas with them. I want them to know how special and unique they all are and I want them to never give up on writing.
Now don’t you give up either!