Updated: Jun 3, 2021
I had jitters when I first stepped in front of a classroom. I had jitters leading my first department meeting—and maybe my second and third. I also had jitters sharing my writing. I just had to push past them. As humans or divine disciples, we all have had doubts and fears from time to time. God can handle all that and move us forward anyway. He knew what I needed to keep me going, so I was able to keep it moving–uncertainties and all–from the moment I started until now. It has been seven fulfilling years, and seeing my lifelong passion unfold before me is truly a blessing. I wake up every day with excitement.
I've watched a friend follow an unconventional path after her retirement. She sold her house and gave away all her possessions to travel. All she owns is what she can carry in a few suitcases. She had to reassess her priorities to make the unconventional decision and probably use some unconditioned mental muscle to follow through. Anyone who pursues new arenas develops new muscles and acquires new memories. In the process, that person becomes a fuller version of themselves. . And although my writing adventures may not be as dramatic, it is a venture into new territory nonetheless. Granted my journey is not complete. While I am becoming, I can also say that I am-–a writer. During the process, I learned a few things about what it takes to journey forward.
Write. Get into a writing regiment. Whether its fifteen minutes a daily or one hour a week. Set up a schedule to write and stick with it. Toni Morrison would rise early in the morning before her children.
2. Get feedback. Former New York City Mayor Koch used to always ask, “How’m I doin’?” I don’t know if he really wanted an answer, but he was known for asking the question. We need to truly ask this of ourselves whatever our venture. At some point, we need to know how it looks, or sounds, or reads. We need to know if we’re achieving what we intended. In education (my previous field), one measurement is the observation report . Some teachers dread them; others welcome them. I tried to write effective and useful ones from which a dedicated teacher could grow. In my new arena, I had to open myself up to feedback as a writer and joined several writing groups. When their schedules conflicted with my other responsibilities, I started my own. Thank God for Meetup. I received supportive and informed feedback from that group as well as from other writing groups, a book group and friends.
3. Proceed with humility. I might have been a seasoned educator with much knowledge, credentials, and experience in my portfolio; however, once I merged into the writing lane, I was a
newbie. In conferences and in writing groups, I was confronted with people, much younger, who
were much further along in their writing journey. Humbly, I received their instruction, counsel and advice. I had to get past the fact that they could have been young enough to be my grandchildren. They knew something I didn’t. So regardless of where we’ve been, it’s critical to be able to learn from the bright sparks of youth and share with them some of the knowledge we've acquired along the way.
4. Know thyself––again. In Shakespeare’s play, Polonius says to his nephew Hamlet: “To thine
own self be true . . . and thou canst not be false to any man.” New spaces require new insight, new sensibilities, and new understanding about how we fit. I knew who I was as an educator. I had to learn who I was as a writer. Learning oneself anew is important when one pivots into new arenas. Finding that sweet spot takes time and practice. We must accept ourselves wherever we are in the process and build.
5. Read. I have always appreciated how others have put words together with rhythm and profundity. I grew up reading the musical and poetic language of the King James version of the Bible. Reading good and varied literature can only enrich the journey of a writer. The exposure stimulates the imagination and broadens one's understanding of what's possible. I have found fictional elements in nonfiction, poetry in fiction, biography in poetry. Writers have blurred the careful lines of demarcation between genres. Only reading could have revealed that and opened up a wider expanse for me in my own writing.
6. Share. I have observed teacher share lessons that worked and and stories about those that didn't. Subject department offices maintain files of successful lessons to which teachers contributed. We enriched each other’s instructional toolkit when we shared.
Writing can be such a solitary activity that we forget there is a world out there. Online platforms help writers connect and share their writing, The mutual feedback benefits the giver and the receiver.
The writing process differs from one individual to another from one season to another. What worked for me in the past may not work in the future. My process will differ from another's. Each writer must make an individual decision about what works and remain open for new possibilities. I'm open, so if you have any possibilities I should considered, jot them in the comment section. I'll be sure to respond.