What I know now that I wish I knew then: reflective writing #CCCWrite

I’m excited to be a part of this reflective writing club, which is motivating me as both a writer and a teacher. I might switch these posts out to a separate blog from my writing and consulting blog, but for now, here I go.

My first #CCCWrite blog post answers the following prompt: What do you know now that you wish you had known then?

Simple: it’s ok to try something without knowing how it will turn out. Duh, right? But it’s taken me a few decades to understand that taking certain risks won’t kill me. Trying something out and seeing what happens: something I am always telling my students to do, with their writing, but which I was hesitant to do, myself, for a long time, with anything else.

Drinking and driving–yes, that could kill me.  Taking a two-week visiting lecturer gig in New York, which could potentially affect my employment status in San Diego (where I adjunct in English at Mesa College)–well no, it actually didn’t kill me. It did, in fact, affect my employment status. But it also opened up other possibilities, and I am reveling in some of those now. And while part of  that opening up was luck or fortune, and being in the right place at the right time, I wouldn’t have been in that right place, had I not taken a risk. The other thing I know now that I wish I knew then: I can’t sit around and wait for things to come to me, as if my merit had some gravitational force. It doesn’t. I have learned that I have to broadcast it, and that broadcasting takes time, risk, possible humiliation, and potential loss. I’m cool with that now.


Things I repeat to students (and writers), and how to start in the “small place”

You’re giving yourself too much work.

You’re making it hard on yourself.

You’re losing focus.

You’re taking on too much.

You’re getting off track.

These are all the beginnings of the kind of comments I often write on first drafts of projects, and they all have something in common: they are responding to written work that has not started in what I call the “small place.”


Getting Started: The Hardest Part

Get Started

If you’re here, it’s probably because you need to get something done, and you’re not sure how to do it. You might know exactly what you want it to look like when you’ve completed it, but have no idea how to get to that point. Or, you might have no idea what it’s supposed to look like, except that it has to be done. With any writing project, the writer and the editor (sometimes those are the same person, sometimes they aren’t) will be stuck at one or all of these points.

Get Unstuck

No matter how skilled or confident a writer you are, you will get stuck. It’s part of the process, and in fact, if you’re never stuck, you’re probably not writing, in the sense of developing, refining, or simply generating a coherent idea. You might just be typing, or scribbling, or putting down words as you think of them. That’s great for a draft, but I can help you take the steps you need to take to turn a flurry of thoughts into a well-crafted essay.

Get Going

First step: spew. let yourself write whatever you’re thinking, but bracket it as a draft, as a step in the process. Set aside time to spew, set aside a place to save it (Get Started Now!) –and then, set aside time to read over the mess, and give yourself some credit for the seeds you’ve planted (Get Started Now!). Believe me, it’s a lot of time you’ll need to set aside, but not one minute (or hour, or week) of it is wasted!