Praise and Improve

Hello! I’m super tired today from reading the new Cassandra Clare book all. Night. Long. (Sixteen word book review: lovely world, great plot, identifiable characters, hopeless with a smidge of hopeful, wretchedly equal love triangle) I hope I make sense today.  Actually, that’s a hope renewed daily.

I adjunct teach English classes occasionally at a local college. For my students, one of the most dreaded parts of the class is decompression questions given after a large assignment.  They groan and put their heads in imaginary nooses and kick the stool beneath them.  But eventually, they finish the task.  The questions aren’t difficult.  For example:

  1. What was the most difficult part/aspect of this project?
  2. What are you proudest of in this essay?  Why?
  3. If you were to write this paper again, what would you do differently?
  4. Is there anything else you’d like to say about this paper?

But the more classes I teach, the more I realize that students in my small, southern town hate, I mean HATE, to check themselves.  They would rather be buried in wet cement than say, “I am proud that I was able to use the word ‘superfluous’ correctly in the third paragraph of my paper.”  That is bragging on oneself, and that is the job of other people standing next to you in a conversation.  It’s as if there is some sort of psychological dilemma when someone looks within and finds something he/she likes, let alone something he/she doesn’t like.

I get it.  I fight this curse daily.  I grew up in a Southern/Japanese hodgepodge culture.  Mix those two together and, basically, I (as an individual) don’t exist.

BUT… Then there are the students that used the assignment for its purpose:  to grow from the writing experience. Those students look at their work as if it were a stranger’s and discover legitimate strengths and weaknesses–things to praise and improve.

Honest self-evaluation can be used for more aspects of life other than writing, but for our purposes…writing it is.

Teaching self-evaluation skills is soooo much easier than practicing them.  It’s really hard to congratulate yourself because of something that came out of your head. It’s something you can take pride in as sole proprietor.  Likewise, the mistakes are yours alone.  We are humans.  We make mistakes.  Sorry if I pooped on someone’s dinner plate with that bit of information, but truth is truth.  Also, we are not perfect.  (There goes dessert.)  So, can’t we deduce that there is always room for improvement?  We, as self-evaluators, label the need and then…well, we work on that area in current and/or future projects.  Bettering our writing. Bettering ourselves.

Point:  Self-evaluations are a vehicle for being honest with yourself, a vehicle which I have found useful in my writing (and my life).  I’m learning that an objective, unbiased eye—from sentence structures to mood and beyond—produces better results for me.

Hint:  It’s more effective if I do not blow smoke up my ass (My first draft is perfect. Revisions are for amateurs.) and if I do not rip myself a new one. (I can’t send this out.  It’s 90,000 words of horse poo. The respectable authors in my genre should start an annual tar and feathering ceremony to punish other authors who try to camouflage horse poo as literature, and I should be the first on their list.)

Your peer revision partner(s), writer’s group member(s), and/or your mom will, hopefully, help you if you lean too far to one side or another on a given day.

Just something I was thinking about…