Writing about writing

To teach or not to teach….

Back in September of 2016, a trusted friend of mine told me about a writing class that was being offered through the Continuing Education department of my college. As a wanna-be-published-author, I jumped at the opportunity to take a class on furthering my career, especially once I learned that we would write a book and publish it by the end of the class! What aspiring author wouldn’t want such an opportunity?!

I signed up for the class, but it was post-poned until this year. In the meantime, I talked a friend of mine who is also a writer-wanna-be to take the class with me. We were both uber-excited about it and talked about it all the time. We even arrived at the class more than an hour early!

As is typical, we spent the first part of the class introducing ourselves and getting to know a little about one another. It was fun! There were nine ladies and the male instructor! We were all eager and ready to learn about self-publishing and happy to know that the others in the class were like-minded.

Our instructor then gave us about a half hour to brainstorm story ideas. After going around the room to share our ideas, he shared his story idea about a suicidal dog—for an audience of 7 to 10 year olds.

In all seriousness, what is YOUR response to reading that??? (Before you read any further, I’d love to hear your thoughts.)

To a woman, our response was, “Ummm, that’s way too dark for a children’s story. No.”

For the next half hour, our instructor proceeded to tell us to “trust him” (I lost count of how many times he said that) and that he knows, beyond a shadow-of-a-doubt, that there is an audience for such a story. It was clear not only by the reactions of the ladies in the room but also by how insistent our instructor was that we “trust him” that this subject matter was not kosher across the board.

While discussing this situation with a co-worker, I was asked what the instructor has published. I am ashamed to say that I had not researched that. I knew our instructor has a travel blog that has been picked up by a local newspaper, but beyond that, I had not heard of anything else he had published. So we looked him up—we googled him, and we searched Amazon and Barnes & Noble—nothing. We kept getting links to the blog he’d already shown us. And his blog entries did not impress me.

I felt like an idiot.

Honestly, how in the world is this guy going to teach me about something he hasn’t even done himself???

How would YOU feel if you found out that your instructor hadn’t even done what he/she is asking you to do? Don’t you typically go into a learning situation with a basic assumption—understanding—that the instructor has done what he/she is teaching? That the instructor not only has had the instruction, but he/she has also DONE the lesson?!

From my perspective, it did NOT inspire confidence in me. In fact, it discouraged me enough that I have made the decision not to return to the class.

I truly would love to hear some thoughts about this….

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The Write Stuff Club

First of all, I can’t believe I haven’t written in this blog for so long!!

Secondly, since I last wrote in this blog, my school has started a creative writing club and I am one of the advisors for it! The best part is that just about every faculty member in our department is an advisor; that way we can spread the love around and no one faculty member is obligated to be at every single meeting or responsible for everything club related.

As a new club, we have a fairly low membership so far, but we are gaining recognition and membership with each passing day. In fact, just today, we had someone stop by to tell us he wants to be in the club! We are confident that our club will only continue to grow as more and more people find out we are even on campus

The first big thing that we did as a club was invite an author to our campus. Originally, we had thought we would have her come just to our club meeting, but the more we talked, the more we wanted her to come so anyone across campus  could come hear her speak. Angela Pisel came to our campus on Wednesday, January 25 and shared her writing process with a room full of folks eager to absorb any and everything Angela wanted to teach us!

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By the way, if you haven’t had a chance yet to read her book, it’s called With Love from the Inside and it is AMAZING!!!

Last November our club also participated in NaNoWriMo. Most everyone in our club who participated won–reached his/her 50,000 word goal.

As a writer myself, I am thrilled to my very soul that we have FINALLY gotten a creative writing club on campus. We have talked about it ever since I first started here more than seventeen years ago, but we’ve never done anything about it….until now!

Check us out! The Write Stuff Club

Will I or Won’t I?

When I read amazing books (see below for a short list of some of my favorites), I am in awe of the amazing ability to tell a story of each author in such wonderful books. I love a story that makes me weep or sob so hard that I can’t read the words on the page. Or a story that changes me forever. Or a story that makes me jump up and take some action. My favorite are the ones that make me laugh out loud or the ones with a sappy, yet beautiful love story. I also love a story based on real historical events–whether it be a work of fiction or non-fiction.

Such stories make me wonder if it is possible, if there is ANY way ever that I will even come close to publishing something I’ve written that anyone else would want to read. I love to write, so whether anyone read what I write or not, I’m going to keep writing. But I desperately want to write something that moves people the way some of these books have moved me.

But then I read a book that is so awful, I know, not even deep down, that I can write at least that well, if not a WHOLE LOT better!!! I like reading horrible books, too, because then I know there is at least one modicum of an iota chance that not only will I one publish something I’ve written, but that someone might actually read it–and like it!!!

One caveat I want to make clear: not every book that’s on my favorite–or non-favorite list has much of anything to do with grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Every single story that is on either list is because of the amazing–or not–storytelling. I can “forgive” terrible word choices and/or bad grammar, but I can’t forgive awful storytelling.

Some of the best books I’ve ever read:

  1. With Love from the Inside by Angela Pisel (fiction)
  2. Walk to Beautiful by Jimmy Wayne (memoir)
  3. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (historical fiction)
  4. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (fiction)
  5. Everything written by Gayle Forman (fiction)
  6. The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling (fiction)
  7. The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon (historical fiction)
  8. Everything by Alexandre Dumas (historical fiction)
  9. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott (historical fiction)
  10. Frankenstein by Mary Wallstonecraft Shelley (fiction)
  11. My Lady Jane by The Lady Janies (sort-of historical fiction)

*and too many more to list here!!!! These are just some of my favorites.

Some the worst books I’ve ever read:

  1. Needful Things by Stephen King (fiction)
  2. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards (fiction)
  3. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith (fiction)
  4. Almost everything by Ernest Hemingway (mostly fiction)
  5. Mystic River by Dennis Lehane (fiction)

*I simply don’t want to mention any more…ugh!!!

I just want to write

I have this almost insane desire to WRITE, but I have absotively posolutely NOTHING to write about. I’m tapped. No fresh topics. No story ideas. Nothing funny or witty or even worth saying, but I want to WRITE and WRITE and WRITE and WRITE and WRITE!!! So I’m going to take 10 minutes and use this blog to freewrite and see if anything comes of it. It is 9:50 pm; I will write until 10:00 pm–nonstop.

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Yep. I still have absolutely nothing to say. I haven’t been doing a lot of writing outside of my journal lately. I love to write, but I just haven’t done much. I do love journaling, so at least I am writing something right now. I’m participating, again, in NaNoJoWriMo–National Journal Writing Month. I really love it. Honestly, even though it’s Month, Bakari does it 4 times a year–January, April, July, & October. This month makes exactly one year that I have participated in each month and I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every month I have participated.

I am so glad Bakari started this! I will continue to participate for as long as he does it. And if he ever decides to pass the mantle, I wouldn’t mind if he chose me!

I’m thinking of attempting to start something similar to National Journal Writing Month, but make it very Biblically-based. I’m not really sure how I would go about doing it–if there’s something I need to do according to the law or at least the “law of the internet.” And I don’t want to steal from what Bakari does, but it will be very similar to his premise. The biggest difference would be that each prompt would begin with a Bible verse or verses and then move forward with a brief comment about the passage–a short Bible study, maybe–and then a topic based on the passage and/or Bible study.

Journaling4life (edit: it’s actually Journaling4faith) does something similar, as well, but they send out topics something like once a week or once a month. I can’t remember right this moment and since I’m freewriting and I’ve promised myself I won’t stop for 10 full minutes, I’m not going to go look. As soon as I get to 10:00, I will look it up and tag the link so you can go check them out for yourselves. I really like what they have going on, too.

I absolutely love to writing. It truly is not only a passion of mine, but something that I have to do the same as I have to breathe. When I don’t write for an extended period of time, I feel lost–adrift at sea with no rescue in sight. Once I start writing again, even if it is a freewrite like this, I have found a small ship to take me in and give me sustenance and keep me healthy for a time.

Writing is simply something I do regardless of whether I want to or not. Some people paint. Some do woodwork. Some color. Man, I’m jealous of the ability of some people to color and make their pictures works or art. Regardless, I do love to color, but I am not all that artistic. Some people find their passion in music, whether that be singing, writing, and/or playing….

And it’s 10:00 pm…..541 words in 10 minutes.

I am not ashamed of the fact that I have been coloring more these past several weeks than writing. 🙂 I have been writing, just not writing blog posts or other “serious” writing that I need to be doing. I’ll do it. I will get more serious and revise my memoir and write my blogs and other things that I’m working on–soon. Just right now, I’m having a lot of fun coloring!

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I want you to know that I have been doing this “adult” coloring for quite awhile now. I have had Johanna Basford’s Enchanted Castle and Secret Garden for about two years now. I did not jump on the adult coloring bandwagon after everyone else; I was one of the ones who never quit coloring–from childhood on! The only difference is that I did buy so-called “adult” coloring books when I found out there was such a thing.

I have always loved to color. I have a large number of Precious Moments coloring books that I have colored in over the years. (No pictures at this time, but I might try to post a few later.) I LOVE Precious Moments, so it has always been a lot of fun for me to color in those coloring books. For one or two of those coloring books, I love them so much, I refused to color in the actual book itself! I made copies of the pages and colored them instead! That also let me color the same picture more than once and use different colors or various types of mediums for coloring!

My most recent favorite medium are glitter gel pens. That’s what I have used on these pages that I have posted here, along with colored pencils. I like the way they blend together. Besides, my glitter gel pens keep running out of ink, so I have to use something else!

Creativity is creativity, though, right? So whether I am writing or coloring, I am, at least, still being creative and that is what, I feel, is most important. I hope that my enjoyment of coloring will carry over into my writing and just make my writing that much better.

Does that make any sense? Julia Cameron can probably explain it better…..

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The more I think about procrastinating, the more I understand why I get so frustrated with myself and everyone around me.

Procrastinating puts me in a state of panic:

  • Will I finish on time?
  • Will what I’m working on be sufficient?
  • Is it good enough?
  • Do I have everything I need to finish?
  • What if something goes wrong?
  • What if my computer breaks down?
  • What if my finger slips and I accidentally delete everything I just typed?
  • What if my cat/dog/child touches my computer and I lose everything I’ve been working on?
  • What if my printer runs out of ink?
  • What if the website to submit my assignment isn’t working properly or is shut down for maintenance?
  • What if I’ve mis-remembered the true due date/time and I am actually too late?
  • What if……?!

Inevitably, something always goes wrong. My in-box for school is filled with emails from students desperately pleading, begging me to accept a late assignment that he/she has EMAILED to me rather than submitted to the appropriate assignment link online because it closed just SECONDS before he/she could submit his/her document—even though we worked on the essay IN CLASS and the essay should have been submitted prior to the student even leaving class!!!

Or a student types his/her document in a program that isn’t sustainable by our campus online education system even though all students are told very explicitly the types of documents that are acceptable.

Oh, and don’t forget the whole, “I don’t understand [such-and-such] part of the assignment.” These are the ones who will email me at the last minute, asking his/her question and then get angry because I wasn’t sitting at my computer, anxiously awaiting HIS/HER email at exactly THE MOMENT he/she desperately needed me to answer his/her question.

Why am I saying all these things when I could so easily get in trouble with my school? Because every single thing I am saying is something I have done at one time or another or I myself have procrastinated in grading assignments such that I am emailing students, begging them to understand and to be patient with me as I FINALLY grade the assignment they completed two months ago.

Yes, it frustrates me to no end when my students procrastinate. Absolutely. But it frustrates me even more so when I procrastinate. I TRY not to get angry and act like a bear, but as I’ve already shared with you, that’s exactly what I act like when I procrastinate.

So procrastinating is a sad reality of life. The real question is: am I going to let it get the better of me or am I going to actively pursue ways of overcoming this defect in myself?

I know how I am answering that question…..how about you?

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Yes, it’s true. I hate procrastinating, but like so many others, I do it more often than not. I am desperately trying to teach my son the importance of doing his assignments and completing his work in a timely manner rather than putting it off. He actually does quite well with this. The few times he has procrastinated, he has found out, quickly, why procrastinating is so dangerous!

I encourage my students to do a little bit on their assignments every single day rather than putting things off to the last minute. I can always tell when a student works on an essay a little bit every day (well, at least every class day when we do in-class revisions together) versus when they wait until just before the essay is due to even begin writing it. It shows very clearly. Some students pass anyway simply because they already have many of the skills necessary to succeed, but they certainly don’t tend to make As.

When I procrastinate, I become a biddy. I yell at everyone around me. I get overly anxious. I eat everything not nailed down. I’m not just a biddy, I’m a bear–a mean Momma Bear whose cub has been threatened! I don’t like myself when I get like that and I am sure that those around me don’t like me very much then, either. (Be nice, Jimmy!)

I think that we often procrastinate because we simply don’t want to do the thing we’re putting off. Or because we don’t like doing what it is we’re not doing.

But I also find that I don’t do what I need to just because. No reason. Just…Because.

I honestly do enjoy reading my students’ essays/assignments. I became a teacher because I played at teaching when I was just a little tyke. You know how some people have imaginary friends? I had imaginary students–a whole class of them–with names, assigned seats, and everything! I gave out classwork and homework and then I graded them!!! Yes, I did! So it’s not that.

It’s just….because.

So here I am, writing this blog post instead of grading the essays that I should have graded last week!!! LOL!

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