Advice: Fail, fail again.

Teacher. Writer.


Both of my jobs have one purpose: to influence teens in a positive way. And both of my jobs provide ample evidence of the ways in which I fail at this.


But failure comes with anything we try. No one starts out good at writing. And every teacher knows no one starts out good at that either. Ask your teachers: were you good at teaching your first year? I imagine they will laugh. Or maybe cry.


And ask your friends who write (or maybe you are the one who writes) if their first stories are as good as their latest ones. Most writers would admit their early writings are more fit for carrion crows than bookshelves.


I try to help my English students see this. Writing, as with everything, takes much practice. Students come to me in their high school years and many of them have dismissed writing as something “impossible” or “too hard” or something they simply “aren’t good at.” Let me tell you. No one who is “good” at writing woke up that way. They slogged through their middle and high school English classes too. Maybe they had teachers who didn’t let them slack off, or maybe they read so profusely that the ability to craft a good sentence simply entered their brain through osmosis (this does happen, but it’s not the norm).


<a href="https://pixabay.com/illustrations/board-school-task-auto-task-2161880/">Image</a> by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/geralt-9301/">geralt</a> on Pixabay

But mostly the people who are good at writing (or welding or algebra or painting) have failed more times than the ones who simply give up.


I’ve failed at writing good sentences so many times. I’ve failed at writing engrossing plots (so many times). I’ve failed at writing compelling characters. My poems are so bad they waft putrid fumes up from the page. But I never gave up on writing.


The fist full-length novel I wrote was one of the most fun things I’ve done. It is terrible. But like my three-legged hound dog that just follows me around wagging his tail, it’s something the world may not want, but it’s something I love. I’ll keep it as a pet, but I’ll likely never release it into the wild. It wouldn’t survive. It would get devoured.


So, to the one who feels that writing is hard, press on. It is. And to those of you who are good at writing (the ones who cringe when they get that 98 on a paper), know that you can always get better. My students who struggle to write one cohesive paragraph in the 10th or 11th grade have not been given the tools necessary to fail. Yes. To fail. Because to them, failure is the thing to be avoided at all costs. Instead, I tell them that failure must not be ignored or avoided.


<a href="https://pixabay.com/illustrations/board-school-task-auto-task-2161880/">Image</a> by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/geralt-9301/">geralt</a> on Pixabay

To improve is to fail more than once. One bad paper isn’t the end; it is the beginning. Revise. Embrace what you didn’t do well and strive to correct it.


I do it all the time.


- C


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