Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What The Words Are Teaching Me



I’ve been teaching a College to Career class at our local university. I teach it as a workshop-style format and spent the first couple of weeks guiding the students through a bit of self-exploration about their interests, values, personality—all ingredients to help them make a more fulfilling career choice, or at least give them a handle to think about the topic.

Some of the students have been a little resistant towards the exploration. I get it. Some personalities just automatically go to a why this doesn’t apply/ work for me or why I don’t need it analysis. Unfortunately, a blanket dismissal keeps them from learning and growing. Certainly, they can throw it away if it doesn’t work for them, but I try to gently push them to at least consider the concepts they are learning. I encourage the students to remove the judgment from the experience and be open to thinking about the information. 

I guess that’s how I feel about this writing journey too. I will benefit most if I remove the judgment and be open to the lessons. After pouring myself into writing almost full-time for a couple of years you'd think I'd have more publications or at least tidbits of sage advice under my writerly belt. I don't. But here are a few things I have learned:

  1. Be open to the experiences. Most are unexpected. Not all of them may prosper me as a writer, but all will move me forward and teach me, if I allow.
  2. Choose who and what I listen to carefully. There is a lot of writing noise out there--how to, what to, should be doing, goals, word counts, advice-- it’s important to be still and listen to my own heart and trust my own creative leadings. 
  3. Wallow in my writing friendships. Yup, like a piggy in mud, find joy and relief in their company.
  4. Write, write and write some more. And have fun doing it. Quit taking myself and I Am A Writer so seriously.
  5. Write as a gift for others. Find my unique purpose and mission. It helps remind my ego to take a back seat too.
  6. Being a Writer is not my sole identity. Feed the whole person and ultimately the writer will be fed too.


Come to think of it, these aren’t bad life-lessons either.

Thanks to Alex  J Cavanaugh


Julie


69 comments:

  1. Yes, a lot of writing noise out there. And it interferes with the ringing in my ears that I can't get rid of! I especially liked the last one. Feed the whole person. That's how it is (or should be) in health care, too.

    M.L. Swift, Writer

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    1. Agreed. Whenever I get too lost in I AM WRITER image, I have to remember there is more to me.

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  2. Hi, Julie,

    These are good lessons. It's important to weigh each bit of advice we come across as writers. I find myself having to do things in my mss because I bought wholesale into some pieces of writing advice that don't work for me.

    Friendship is very important to me too, so I value the relationships I'm found in the writing community.

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    1. Yeah-- I'm just insecure enough that I have to be careful to not listen to EVERY bit of writing advice out there, or I'd never write.

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  3. Write as a gift to others. I love that.

    Those students who dismiss it miss so much. Whenever I do my motivational seminars, I tell people up front they will get a lot more out of it if they open their minds and put forth genuine effort.

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    1. It's the age I think. They're a mixture of ego without experience to temper it and are tired of people telling them how to think and they're busy formulating their own life philosophy. Doesn't always keep them in a very receptive mindset.

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  4. As always, I love your blog, so real, so right, so ... write! You have such wonderful points to share ... a great way of seeing things that can help drown out the buzz. Thank you.

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    1. And you're always so supportive and write a very genuine blog as well--it's why I like to read yours as well.

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  5. Nice. All excellent learning points. I especially enjoy #3--Wallow in my writing friendships (like a piggy in mud). I've never heard it put that wáy before, but I love it because that's exactly what I do (wallow with writers) when other non-writerly friends and family can't grasp the concept of my writing life.

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    1. Right-- we're an odd breed. I can't really blame people for not getting me! I love the humor and humility of my writer buds too-- and people like you who let me be all heart-oriented. ;)

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  6. Hah! Can we wallow together in the wine vat instead of mud? ;)
    You want to gently push your students...when you tire of it, let me know and I'll send Jezebel over with her whip.

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    1. Hello my little piggy friend. Thanks for your hug on your blog today. You are good to me and I know life has been kinda poopy with you lately too, so a big hug back. Ohhh Jezebel as a guest speaker. Yes ma'am. Let's book her.

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    2. Group hugs! Jez already has her bag packed...and a flail. You don't know what terror you're in for.

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  7. I wish I'd had a course like yours before I joined the work world, Julie. All of my jobs over the years were accidents, serendipitous opportunities. It worked out okay, I guess, and I met a lot of people I treasure, but I often wonder where I could have gone if I'd followed my heart. I guess that's why following my heart (and gut) is the way I handle my writing life. Still, serendipity keeps rearing its lovely head and sometimes I grab on for the ride. You never know.

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    1. I actually think that's how most of us, course or not, find our way through life. They want a crystal ball and I always remind them it doesn't exist and experience is our best teacher.

      Oh serendipity. That would be another good lesson to add.

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  8. I don't feel like I have a choice with writing. If I were rational, I would reject it, move on, do as your students do--explaining why it can't possibly work. Done that. Bought the tshirt. Used it as a dust rag. And I'm still writing.

    Thanks for reminding me!

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    1. Your comment made me laugh. Yup, we're in too deep now. ;)

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  9. We do have to watch what we listen to. Often our own heart is the best guide.

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  10. Yeah, many of us think we have everything under control and know enough about what life has in store for us. If only your surly students could see it as developing a backup plan, as many of us need them. :) Great tips. Some of those I need to keep in mind. :) Writer’s Mark

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    1. All part of the age, I think. It's taken me a long time to drop the ego and defensiveness and just listen and learn too.

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  11. Listening to your own writerly instincts is key:) Every writer has a unique style, schedule and tactics. Finding what works for you is half the battle.

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    1. Couldn't have said ti better-- thanks for stopping by.

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  12. I didn't realize how much the readers would be on my mind while I write. Pre-publication, I just wrote what I thought would be good. Post-publication, I think, what would the reader want here? So seeing writing as a gift to others is perfect!

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    1. As I was writing that, I was aware I may have more of the tendency to think that way because, thus far, I write nonfiction. So unless it has meaning for the reader, it's not very effective-- not like getting lost in a story (but that can be a gift too!).

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  13. Wonderful tips and lessons. I've taken the writing as a gift to others literally in the past and started writing a book for my mom, with the main character based after her. I wouldn't write much on it during the year but for Christmas I would give her the next couple of chapters to enjoy. :)

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    1. Chrys, I love that idea! Anne Lamott talks about writing as a gift-- letters, etc-- in her book Bird by Bird and that has always stuck with me.

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  14. Love the idea of wallowing in our friendships. Perfect. :)

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  15. Ahh, reading this felt like a rest for my writing soul. Thank you, Julie! :) Enjoy the process!
    BTW, I haven't been writing full time, but I've been pursuing publication for about . . .well, steadly, for about 7 years now - sending stories and poems out there and just hoping for the best. It takes time, but it's worth it, and I just keep learning. If I can do it, you can too! :)

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    1. Writing this was like a rest and reminder for my soul too. And I appreciate following in such good footsteps. I admire all the writers who have been at this a bit longer than I have!

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  16. Some wonderful writing lessons for life. Particularly love the quote 'Write as a gift for others.'

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  17. What a great list. Writing as a gift is a great thing to remember, and it's quite important to learn #2.

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    1. I'm still learning #2. I let my insecurity lead me sometimes still.

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  18. I found it interesting that so many readers picked out number two to comment on. That's the one that grabbed me, as well. Nice to know I'm in good company.

    Very good list. Thanks.

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    1. I think it's hard to shut out the noise sometimes, and there's no lack of it.

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  19. I love all 6 points. All of them. Number 2, however, would be number 1 for me. Between you and I, the noise came to be extremely hurting for this dragon's writing rather than helping. Noise can get you dizzy and sick of yourself. I really have to keep all these points in mind. SH!!!!

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    1. Al, I totally understand that, in my heart-- it also hurts my writing and that will have to be a priority for the New Year. It's all (mostly) well-intentioned, but sometimes, just too much.

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  20. "Being a Writer is not my sole identity. Feed the whole person and ultimately the writer will be fed too." I wish it WERE more of my identity...I suppose I'll get there. :)

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    1. I have a tendency to be a carrot-chaser, Lisa. Very goal oriented, to the point it drives my time and thoughts. I have to remember to back off sometimes, but I think that journey is different for all of us. I also think the journey is different depending on where you're at in life-- if your kiddos are small, if you're immersed in a career.

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  21. Six very good lessons. I hope those students appreciate their high-quality teacher.

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    1. Pfff-- they SO SHOULD. I'm not sure they do or not-- it will come out in the evaluations!

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  22. Thank you!... for sharing your experience. After a long time I am here, finally got relief from exams and business. Now, I'll read, write and learn.
    By the way teaching is really hard job, because teaching is just the source of earning money for teacher, they don't want to inspire and motivate their students.

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    1. I hope your exams went well. Cheering you on, Sakib!

      I have to disagree with you about instructors, especially at a non-research, teaching-oriented university. Most instructors I know are very educated, PhDs and willing to earn very little money, relatively speaking, because they love teaching and are strongly motivated to share with students their particular passions.

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    2. Yeah!..I agree but as technical student if you're pursuing a degree in the science field believe me It is really hard to find inspiring teachers.especially if teacher is fresher....

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    3. Well that's very unfortunate. Hope the education piece of your life moves quickly, then.

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  23. You offer very sage advice, Julie. I agree with the others regarding #2. "Writing noise" is a perfect term. A lot of it is noise. Thanks for saying that. We don't have to listen to it all just because someone's labeled an "expert" or "best selling author."

    Cheers,
    xoRobyn

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    1. Robyn, I think it preys on our vulnerabilities and insecurities. Heaven knows it's easy to get in that space with our writing. Sometimes we just have to shut it out and write anyway. Or at least I do.

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  24. My parents taught me to choose my friends carefully. I taught myself to write, write, and write some more. Now I have to think of what I can add to pass on to my kids.

    Great post!

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    1. Clean behind your ears is good. I think I just learned a love of the written word and the ability to use my intellect from my dad. I learned a love of the heart and arts from my mom.

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  25. Love this post. I was just talking to my husband yesterday about enjoying the journey rather than just being focused on the destination. Great list of reminders. I need to focus on 3: Write, write, and write some more.

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    1. I'm so stinkin' goal-oriented, that I have to constantly remind myself to love the process too. And yes, I need to do 3 a little bit more!

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  26. Excellent words of wisdom. I especially like the last one - sometimes, we forget that we're so much more than just writers. It's been great getting to know my other writer friends outside of our endeavors and just get to know them as a whole person.

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  27. Julie - Excellent advice for writers! I wish that I had taken your class. I'm impressed that you manage to find the time to be involved in so many worthwhile endeavors.

    Julie

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    1. Julie, thanks but hold the admiration.I was just thinking this morning that my stress level is a little high lately. It's all good and fortunately, temporary, but WHEW!

      As I was writing this, I was thinking I might turn these lessons I've pondered into more concrete goals for the New Year-- give them a little action.

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  28. I would say that's pretty sage advice. Thank you for the reminders Julie. Very cool class you are teaching too!

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  29. I'd like to add that I write as a gift for myself too. =)

    I predict that some of your students who are less open to exploring in your class might come back to some of the ideas you've been teaching once they try out a job or program that they thought was what they wanted, and then realize it might not actually be the right fit.

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    1. That's the hope, of course, that they'll take a little something with them and that's actually exactly what I tell them.

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  30. I can identify with this post a lot. A couple of thoughts are echoed in my recent post, "You're Writing it all Wrong...Perhaps Not!"

    It also goes along with what J. L. Campbell said in her comment "about buying into some things that don't work for you."

    I tried to look deeper than a quick rule of writing and see what the underlying prinicipals were.
    I think that's what you're trying to help these students do.
    Whether reading a book, listening to a speech, or listening to a counsoler, its important to look at the motivation and the ideals they are trying to pass on rather than just memorizing or quoting their words. Look for that, rather than just a sound bite. I love quotes, but it is undertanding what a person meant, in context, that gives them meaning.
    Does that make sense? It's still early where I am. :)

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    1. I read your article-- it was very good and your quotes were great. There are, of course, always great nuggets to glean out there! Thanks for offering a few.

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  31. Julie, this is such great advice and yes I can easily see this post turned into some NY Resolutions. Aaand i am still so jealous of all these comments you always get! Doing something right, my friend. Susie

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    1. I'd like to say it's something special I do, but I think the truth is it's a very active and supportive writing community. My other blog doesn't get near this many comments, which is OK too.

      Yeah-- I think I'm going to flip a few into more intentional resolutions. Thanks for YOUR support, Susie. :)

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  32. Julie,

    It has been a long time since I could come up for a breath of fresh writers air. I have missed breathing so. Almost done and a return to life will happen sometime around the first of the year.

    I love that I found this post as the one to return too. It speaks to me on so many levels. If I may add a couple of comments that hopefully will add some defense to the life you choose.

    Be the Captain of the written word. The words work for you, they serve you and they will do anything you command. Some people command their word to harm, insult, and damage for the express intent of gaining power or authority for the speaker.

    You should not feel guilty because you choose to command your words to help, encourage, build-up, and strengthen others. There is honor in your path, truth in your message, and love in your heart. You are on the right path, your are right to instruct your class on the most important lesson in life. Know thane self. How can a person achieve in life when they don't understand the basics of their own personality?

    You are do all the right things, you take people to the right places, and give them the right tools to unearth something specular. if they choose to ignore your act of service, you have succeeded. You too then there but they still have to do the work.

    Focus on those who want to learn, and let the others go about their way. Build your team, with positive energy and unwavering devotion, intense compassion.

    Happy Holidays

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    1. What an encouraging response, Rob. Thank you. And good to see you again! I think a lot of us have been in a "duck n' cover" mode for a bit, trying to focus on our priorities.

      Have a wonderful Christmas. :)

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  33. Wanted to come over and thank you for visiting my blog so much this Advent season. I love all of your great comments. I read your IWSG post and like your list. There IS a lot of writing noise out there. Being selective is better. Thanks.

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    1. Mary, I'm totally enjoying your very thoughtful posts and like to read it in the morning as part of my meditation. Thank you for your sincere and inspiring messages.

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Thanks for being a part of the conversation. I love reading your thoughts and feedback.