Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Throwing Socks at the Ceiling Fan

I'm deep in the revision cave, and this old post came to mind... I hope it still inspires~ 

Before I was an editor, before I worked in any form of news, before I had a master's degree, before I had any credentials other than a bachelor's degree and a post-baccalaureate certification, I taught tenth-grade English.

I think every college graduate should be required to teach one year, or at least student teach one semester at a public school. There'd be a lot less debate about funding public schools or how hard our teachers work or even how different kids are today from how they were "back then."


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So I taught tenth grade English, and at the end of that year, my students had to take the writing portion of the LEAP exam, Louisiana's standardized testing required for graduation.

Needless to say we focused on writing heavily, and needless to say many of them were extremely nervous about being required to write on a random topic in order to graduate. Or to write. Period.

Our mantra was "writing is a craft," and I explained that meant it was something you got better at the more you did it. I'd have them write something almost every day, pass it to a neighbor for "grading," and then go back and correct it before turning it in to me for the final grade.

It was a primitive version of critique partners, and I didn't even know it. When I started writing books, I didn't know what I wanted to write. I'd get ideas for stories that I liked, or I'd get a character in my head, and I'd chase him or her wherever s/he led, whether it was back in time or outer space or just around the block.

My first book wasn't very polished, but I think my latest shows the mantra works. You do improve with practice, getting feedback, learning from mistakes.

When he was in high school, my older brother liked lying on his bed, taking off the socks he was wearing, and then throwing them at the ceiling fan while it was spinning. Sometimes I'd lie on the bed beside him and watch, and we'd laugh about how far they flew or dodge the falling dust bunnies, depending on how long it'd been.

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My writing path feels that way at times. Five completed MSs later, and I still don't know which genre I prefer to write or which my readers prefer. I'm not sure it matters as long as I just keep doing it, learning from my mistakes, improving.

I can't seem to find my point today, I'm sorry. If you've made it this far, I guess it's just keep swimming.

And if you're throwing socks at the ceiling fan, remember to dodge the dust bunnies. (Yes?)

Oh, and every one of my students passed the writing portion of the LEAP. I was so proud of them. Still am. Have a great week, reader- and writer-friends! <3

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