Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Noisy Little Mirror

I'm sitting across the table from WC and it's taking all that I have not to reach over and smack him. I've been mislead by his after school programs boasting of homework help. They pretty much sit them in a room and leave them to their own devices. For a first grader who can barely read the homework directions are quite complicated. He cannot do it without someone relaying to him what he needs to do then badgering the living daylights out of him to stay on task. This kid's up for the world title in championship stalling. We had to start out this afternoon with me having to tell him that it wasn't correct. The child has a perfectionist streak five miles wide. At times it paralyzes him from doing things because he knows he can't do it perfectly. It's been a difficult thing to try to get him through with starting school. It's what I'm currently fighting with in his brain as he wipes his eyes and tells me that he isn't crying but that his eyeballs are sweating. No, he's frustrated because he wants to write some big long complicated sentence. He ignores my pleas to keep it simple. Then opts for writing sentences in which all his vocabulary words go "kerpal." I think he's exploding them on paper. But it has still taken him 45 minutes to write 5 simple sentence featuring a three letter vocab word. He finally completes his last sentence and takes off. I'm not going to stop him. I know he thinks what he's done isn't good enough.
I could sit here and pretend that I don't know where this comes from. But I'd be lying. I'm the guilty party of passing this personality on. Part of me thinks that should make me more understanding of him. But it drives me insane. My first semester of college I took a writing class. The first paper I received back looked like a massacre. The paper marred with red ink and it broke my heart. The professor liked my story and I received an A but that's not what I clung to. After that class I hung up writing for a while.  Time and maturity have brought me to a place of understanding what constructive criticism looks like. I've taken a couple online writing courses but found the criticism mild and unhelpful.  Right now I'm coming face to face with how much I've grown while in the process of editing my manuscript. During writing I mostly concentrated on finishing. So I wrote. I'd worry about the polishing later. Later has arrived and I feel that I'm still back on square one. Years away from anything usable...salable...marketable. I'm struggling with how far to polish and when to let the scene go. I feel the story is solid. But the nagging self-doubt comes whispering whenever I begin to feel too good about things. During the initial writing I had two friends who would read over it. One friend in particular is responsible for talking me down from the self doubt ledge many a time. Any time I thought that it sucked and why was I bothering I could run to her for that pep talk. But I'm at the point to hearing how great the story is doesn't cut it. It's time to push to make it better. And I'm going to have to listen to difficult comments in order to move forward. Here's to finding out how far I've come since that first writing class.


Michele said...

Spoken like a true writer! That's why I havent published in over a year! I started a critical streak and havent been able to finish a darn thing- including an article even!- without rewrite after rewrite after...

Criticism is never an easy pill to swallow, even when you know it is helping. But when the story is solid, the rest falls into place. Yours will. Of that, I am certain.

Poor WC. I can imagine his frustration. Can you talk to the homework helpers and let them know he needs some extra help? Maybe that could help?

Jody Hedlund said...

Hi Terri,

Sometimes it's that really tough criticism that pushes us to grow the most. Even when it's really hard to swallow. We need those cheerleaders by our side--I have a couple of people like that too. But then we also need others who can read our work and challenge us to take it to the next level. Hopefully you'll be able to find someone who can do that in a tough but kind way! :-)

Terri Jones said...

Thanks Jody for stopping by and leaving a comment. I agree some of the criticism that I've gotten in the past that I immediately didn't like turned out to be the most helpful.