(NaNoWriMo cheerleading post for November 16 – comment on this post if you would like me to address a specific topic)
When I taught, parents would earnestly tell me their children needed their self-esteem built up, and would ask me to provide positive feedback.
I didn’t. I won’t. I don’t give meaningless praise. It doesn’t build self-esteem. There is nothing more discouraging to a kid than telling her she’s doing great when she knows she’s not. Even if it makes her feel good for a moment, the main reason it feels good is knowing someone loves you enough to lie to you. But it doesn’t make you feel better about yourself, and the long-term effect of saying “good job!” when it’s not is to reduce effort and to damage persistence, two essential factors in achievement.
And persistence is much more important than effort.
If you’re like me, you’ve had some bad days or bad weeks this month. You forgot to write, or let work, politics, social engagements, family, or personal issues discourage you. You wondered why you were bothering to write every day. You worried that your writing was bad.
Here’s the thing: Yeah, your writing sucks. Yeah, you’re too busy. So what? Why does that mean you get to stop? Do you win at life if you defeat yourself? If you stopped, start again. Why not?
If you didn’t write yesterday, or last week, sit down the first moment you have time today and start writing again. Start a new story. Write an essay. Write a letter to your uncle or to your Congressman. All the words count.*
People who write every day are writers. Showing up, sitting down, and writing is the best practice there is for writing. And we build the habit of persistence by persisting. By refusing to let short-term failure serve as an excuse for life-long failure. By insisting that despite our fears and our perfectionism, we are willing to face the blank sheet and accept what comes out.
Yeah, we all know plenty of people who persist and don’t do well . . . don’t we? Hm. No, now that I think of it, I don’t know any such person. Persistence pays off.
Just pick up your writing instrument and produce some words. Go ahead.
Next: Plot – Making things difficult
* Well, not the words you write on Facebook when you’re arguing with someone whose mind you’re not ever going to change. Those words don’t count. Imagine you’re trying to reason with a bot, a troll, a provocateur, or your crazy cousin. That’s who it actually is you’re arguing with, now that I think of it.†
† Real people who don’t like what you’re saying often unfriend you or block you. It’s just the trolls who stay and keep arguing. But if you want to develop your arguing skills with a pretend opponent, go ahead.