Farewell Until the Fall

In class on Wednesday, a student realized that, although there are three weeks left in the semester, this is the last week when blog posts will be required. Lots of fist pumping followed this realization, reflecting the relief of not having one more assignment piled on to an already busy end-of-semester.

At least I’m assuming that’s why people were wiping their brows, high-fiving, celebrating that they don’t have to write any more blogs for my class. Surely it’s not because the assignment of writing two blog posts per week is problematic and onerous and Too Much.

Or is it?

This is the second year I’ve required students in my writing classes to keep blogs, figuring that blogging is an excellent way for students to sustain a writing discipline, and one with a little more bite than just having to turn in one-page reflections to me, their professor. When they write blog posts, students know that more than just one person will be reading what they’ve written; and when they miss a week, leaving a large, yawning gap on their public page, there’s at least a tad bit more accountability than a zero in the grade book only their professor sees.

But then I also believe that those who want to be writers—and surely a number of students in my classes do want to be “real” writers—need to know how to develop a writing presence online. Blogging is something real writers have to do these days to create that presence, as does promoting one’s blog.

It’s a messy business, in some ways, all this promoting and blogging and letting other people know your big deep thoughts. But also a practice that will prove useful some day. I think.

This will also be my last blog post on this page, at least until the fall when another writing class begins its blogging journey. I have a professional blog elsewhere, dealing with a much more specific topic than what I address here, and for now, I’ll be putting my energies there—and, also, in the book I’m somehow supposed to write before fall.

I guess I should be pumping my fists, too, knowing that at least until September, I have one less post to write every week.

Love Day and The Potential Demise of Traditional Publishing

Last year over spring break, my older son and I spent half a morning at a nearby Barnes and Noble, part of what my son has called our “Love Day.” This was the second-annual Love Day event, which seems to involve me buying him a few books and a specialty drink from Dutch Brothers, and then later, lunch at Wendy’s and some candy for the ride home. Love Day is apparently about mom spending money, about eating crap, and about getting books.

Love Day was lovely, too, especially the time at Barnes and Noble. My son is old enough now that I can leave him wandering the youth section while I browse in the fiction shelves nearby, which means no more tedious hours flipping through picture books at a too-small table, trying to stay awake through one more construction machine book he’s dragged off the shelf. Instead, we could both enjoy something we love doing: looking at all the books, and choosing one or two to read while we enjoy our candy and French fries.

So when I think about the loss of traditional publishing avenues, and the loss of traditional ways of transmitting texts, I get a little sad and wistful. I definitely don’t want bookstores to go away; there’s too much aesthetic pleasure in roaming shelves of books at Powell’s or Barnes and Noble, or even at Chapter’s, where you get to look at books, drink the best chai ever, and see lots of the community people you love. I would hate to lose all that, though with the demise of traditional publishing, that loss is certainly a possibility.

Or even an eventuality. Because things are changing, and new modes of publishing are reshaping the models for how we write, receive, and read texts. Some of these changes are promising: I love the idea that more folks will see their work into print, and that some stories that might otherwise not me told we, because of technology, have their opportunity to find an audience. I love the many ways writers now can practice their craft, and I think newer modes of publishing have democratized the written word, meaning more people have access to seeing their ideas in print.

Depending on the day and when you ask me, I see these changes in the publishing industry as a boon for writers, or as a bust; it’s also a boon and/or a bust for readers. Perhaps my own shifting feelings about publishing reflect the instability of the industry itself. After all, we don’t really know for sure how changes in technology will influence all those writers to come. We don’t know how it will affect our own desires to write novels, or memoirs, or the next best opinion article, and see those things in print. We don’t know if bookstores will still be around, or whether bookstores will go the way of movie rental stores and A & W Drive-up restaurants.

Whether Love Day itself will remain a tradition is still a mystery, after all. I guess I can find solace in this: even if bookstores fade away, we will still have candy. That’s something, at least in my family. 

Why I hate Twitter, Even One Year Later

A year ago this week, I reluctantly joined Twitter. I wrote this reflection then. Turns out, not much has changed about my feelings in the last year. 

Okay, so I joined Twitter in a fit of jealousy, after not one but two of my friends had their blog posts re-tweeted by famous writers. Figuring I am missing out, I joined Twitter as well, hoping that someone famous will see my brilliance and decide to re-tweet my blog, too.

I hate it: just one more way to feel rejection (What? Only two people have started following me since last night? What gives?). Just one more thing I have to scroll through endlessly, looking for that gem of 140 characters that will rock my world. Just one more way to recognize that a zillion other writers are more successful than I am, and always will be.

This whole writing gig got entirely more difficult with technology. Now a writer who wants to be known has to establish an online writing presence, create a blog, plead for followers, post status updates about her writing life, Tweet and ReTweet blog posts, join blogging networks, promote herself as The Next Big Thing.

As an introverted Mennonite whose spent her life learning to be humble, I honestly struggle with the self-promotion necessary these days to be a successful writer. Every time I suggest that my Facebook friends should read my post, I feel like I’ve committed an act of real hubris: “Hey, look at me! Spend some of your precious time reading the great stuff I’ve written!” I’m embarrassed every time I do this, and want to hang my head in shame.

But then, of course, I spend the next hours waiting for people to respond to my posts, or at least “Like” them, for goodness sake, or now—thanks to Twitter—retweet them. Gah! Another level of angst and rejection! I’m constantly reliving my 16th birthday party, when no one showed up. With each blog post, I wonder: will I be eating my birthday cake alone this time, too?

(And now I’m worried: will this admission make people feel sorry for me, compelling them now out of guilt and pity to click “Like,” just to heal my angst-ridden soul?)

Look at what technology has done to me. To every writer! Some days, I long for the time before the internet, when the only stuff we read was what got published in books, magazines, and newspapers. But then, this week I’m reading Bird by Bird again with my class. Anne Lamott reminds us that publishing itself is not all it’s cracked up to be, and that we must write for other reasons as well. We write to “expose the unexposed.” To express truth. To liberate what’s inside us, so that we might feel joy—and save ourselves.

So, okay, there’s that. But even Lamott has a Twitter account, and I bet she monitors her followers, too.  As one of my friends just told me, “Writers are a needy lot.”  And, I think, technology has made us needier. 

Learning to Compose (as a Woman)

In my first year of graduate school, I had a professor who was a bit of a letch. He seemed ancient even then, like in his 90s, and I heard rumor he was on about his fourth or fifth trophy wife. He enjoyed having young women to his office to leer at their, um, work, and to lecture them on Everything He Knew.

I was taking his undergraduate modern novel course, but as a graduate student, meaning I had to do extra assignments to receive credit, meaning I had to make visits to his office, where he would leer and lecture. He also let me know, early on in the semester, that my writing was crap, and that he was the only person who could save me. His evidence: I had started my first essay with a subordinate clause.

That didn’t seem like a problem, so I talked with my advisor, who told me the professor was full of himself, and full of something else, too. She also said his rule about subordinate clauses at essay beginnings didn’t exist, and that I was a strong writer; Dr. Letch just liked putting women down to show his dominance: an academic chest thumping of sorts, like a virile gorilla almost.

Thus began a semester of having my writing torn down by one professor, then lifted up by another. The tearing down was far more damaging, and I began to doubt my fitness for graduate school even more. My insecurities and lack of confidence started seeping in to all my written work: in the language I used, in my essay structures, and in the tearful apologies I made to my advisor about how much my work sucked.

She kept feeding me the work of feminist learning theorists, many of them mentioned in the Elizabeth Flynn essay: Chodorow, Belenky et al, Gilligan. She also made me read the Elizabeth Flynn essay itself. She taught me that because of cultural conditioning about what it means to be born male or female, and because of differing conceptions of self, I learned differently than Dr. Letch, needed to write differently than Dr. Letch, and must find my own writing voice—apart from what Dr. Letch thought was “true” academic writing: that is, his way.

In other words, she set me free: not only in that class, but in every other class, and every other writing act, that followed. Truly, she did exactly what Flynn say. She encouraged me “to become self-consciously aware of what [my] experience in the world had been and how this experience is related to the politics of gender.” And then, she encouraged me to “write from the power of that experience.” Such was an amazing gift, and I am forever grateful for her guidance.

That other professor? I may not use subordinate clauses to open essays (to be honest, I’m not sure), but what I learned for the time spent in his office is that he was a jerk, as was his favorite writer, D.H. Lawrence.

I guess that’s something, after all. 

 

 

Learning to Compose (as a Woman)

In my first year of graduate school, I had a professor who was a bit of a letch. He seemed ancient even then, like in his 90s, and I heard rumor he was on about his fourth or fifth trophy wife. He enjoyed having young women to his office to leer at their, um, work, and to lecture them on Everything He Knew.

I was taking his undergraduate modern novel course, but as a graduate student, meaning I had to do extra assignments to receive credit, meaning I had to make visits to his office, where he would leer and lecture. He also let me know, early on in the semester, that my writing was crap, and that he was the only person who could save me. His evidence: I had started my first essay with a subordinate clause.

That didn’t seem like a problem, so I talked with my advisor, who told me the professor was full of himself, and full of something else, too. She also said his rule about subordinate clauses at essay beginnings didn’t exist, and that I was a strong writer; Dr. Letch just liked putting women down to show his dominance: an academic chest thumping of sorts, like a virile gorilla almost.

Thus began a semester of having my writing torn down by one professor, then lifted up by another. The tearing down was far more damaging, and I began to doubt my fitness for graduate school even more. My insecurities and lack of confidence started seeping in to all my written work: in the language I used, in my essay structures, and in the tearful apologies I made to my advisor about how much my work sucked.

She kept feeding me the work of feminist learning theorists, many of them mentioned in the Elizabeth Flynn essay: Chodorow, Belenky et al, Gilligan. She also made me read the Elizabeth Flynn essay itself. She taught me that because of cultural conditioning about what it means to be born male or female, and because of differing conceptions of self, I learned differently than Dr. Letch, needed to write differently than Dr. Letch, and must find my own writing voice—apart from what Dr. Letch thought was “true” academic writing: that is, his way.

In other words, she set me free: not only in that class, but in every other class, and every other writing act, that followed. Truly, she did exactly what Flynn say. She encouraged me “to become self-consciously aware of what [my] experience in the world had been and how this experience is related to the politics of gender.” And then, she encouraged me to “write from the power of that experience.” Such was an amazing gift, and I am forever grateful for her guidance.

That other professor? I may not use subordinate clauses to open essays (to be honest, I’m not sure), but what I learned for the time spent in his office is that he was a jerk, as was his favorite writer, D.H. Lawrence.

I guess that’s something, after all. 

 

 

A Man of Influence

Dead Poets Society came out the summer between my junior and senior year of college. Or maybe that’s when I saw it first, with a friend, another English major at George Fox. We both sobbed through most of the movie, admitting later that we were thinking of a favorite professor as we watched, someone who seemed so much like the Robin Williams character it was uncanny.

Yet that next fall when we returned to classes, and I told the professor about the movie, about how much he was like John Keating, he said he refused to see the movie, thought he would probably hate the treacle crap it tried to peddle, and that he was bothered people would make a comparison between him and Robin Williams. That he would always lose such comparisons, because he didn’t have other people writing his lines.

That was Ed Higgins, one person who has had an enormous influence on my writing.

I don’t write like Ed—not in the least. If someone were to study the language patterns of my work and his, they would find few (if any) similarities. Ed’s writing is far more poetic and terse and opaque and at times a little raunchy. He includes allusions that show his deep knowledge of ancient literature, science, agriculture, and history (though I happen to know he sometimes uses Wikipedia to enhance his writing, too).

And still, Ed’s influences in my writing run deep. Early on, when I was in college, Ed provided an honest, sometimes hurtful, always helpful critique of my work (see last week’s post for an example of that). I could tell he spent a lot of time going over my writing, pushing me to be a better thinker when I put pen to paper. He never allowed me to settle in my writing, and I aspired to be better because of the comments he’d make on my work.

Although Ed made some scathing critiques of my writing, he also went on, over the next three years I spent at George Fox, to give me enough encouragement that I thought maybe I could make it as a writer. When in my senior year he asked if he could keep one of my essays to use as reference, I believed I had finally arrived; when he encouraged me to get some of my material published (and it did—get published, that is), I felt especially indebted to Ed, and in the ways he pushed me to get my work out into the world.

Over the years, he’s continued to push me in that direction, both explicitly, be telling me “you need to publish this”; and implicitly, by being such a prolific author himself. And, he’s always been my biggest cheerleader when I did get something published, even when I got paid significantly more for one article than he ever received for his poetry.

His influence is also reflected in smaller ways; I now abhor the syntactical problems he abhorred, trying to scour them from my own work and from my students’ work as well. Ed was the first person to teach me the paramedic method, and I’ve tried to apply that cut-editing technique to my own work, removing as many prepositional phrases as possible, making my sentences more active, and excising all the “that” and “which” words that muck up a sentence. Ed taught me to despise that, probably to an unhealthy degree, and to be forever suspicious of anything that smacks of cliché. Having him draw dead fish in my essay margins—his editing symbol for “cliché”—was enough to make me avoid even the hint of cliché, though I also imagine he’d find plenty of places to slap down a dead fish now.

I haven’t even delved into the years we spent together in a writing group, meeting each week to share our work and to talk shop. That also has been hugely influential in my own writing and publication, if only because Ed pushed me to be more prolific than I’d ever be if left to my own devices.

I may not write like Ed, I may not share his taste in science fiction, I may never fully understand the poems he writes. Nonetheless he, more than any other person, has made me the writer I am today, for better or worse. I would say more, but then I might slip even deeper into cliché, and I know better than to do that. 

What it’s Like to Share Writing: A Short History

My mom always loved the writing I showed her. She had to, I think, because she was my mom, and really, what kind of mother is going to tell her daughter that the fiftieth poem she’s written about “A horse named Star/Who can run very far” is actually crap? Not my mom.

My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Schmidt, also loved the writing I showed her. She kept a manila folder on her desk marked “Melanie’s stories,” and accepted my offerings as if they were golden. I heard her tell another teacher in the hall one time that I was very creative, and that I was a great writer. After having my esteem shredded by the fifth grade boys in the class, this was exactly the words I needed to hear.

A middle school teacher didn’t want to read the stories I showed her, did not think me creative or a good writer or even a good kid. I still hear her voice sometimes, letting me know my efforts were indeed crap. I went into hiding as a writer that year, abandoned any aspirations of becoming a novelist.

Only after sharing my essays with a high school teacher did I start to revise any opinions about myself as a writer. I had a deep hole to dig out of, but essay by essay, year by year, I started to regain my confidence, willing myself to be the good writer I once believed myself to be, willing to share my writing with not only my mother, but also with other teachers and with my peers.

So that by the time I reached my second year of college, I was feeling fairly confident about myself as a writer. Perhaps too confident. In an advanced writing class, for the first time ever, we were being asked to share our writing in small groups, akin to the writing workshops that now serve as the foundation for my own writing classes.

Even now, a quarter-century later, I remember the room at George Fox University (Ross 141) and the teacher (Ed Higgins). I remember two of the members in my group (names withheld to protect the innocent). I remember the essay’s topic (abortion), the resources I used (liberal quotations from Christian musician Steve Taylor), and the essay’s title (“Motives Revealed,” which makes no sense. But still.).

I also remember how smug I felt reading my work aloud to my group members. They’d already shared their plebian offerings, full of banal imagery and Christian cliché. I could hear the grammatical errors in their voices, knew that their essays were rife with mistakes. I smirked—in my heart, of course—while I listened, and when they finished, I provided all kinds of helpful advice for how they might revise so that their work sounded . . . well, sounded like mine.

Then it was my turn. I read “Motives Revealed” with all the confidence I could muster, my voice strong as I quoted Steve Taylor’s “When will it end, oh, no . . .” Finishing with my final important point, something along the lines that we need to listen to Steve Taylor’s warning, I put the paper down on my desk, then looked up at the people in my group. Smugly, I would say, except I already used that descriptor above.

“Wow,” one of the nameless members said. “That was really good.”

Another nodded. “I wouldn’t change a thing. That was awesome.”

And so dear readers, I didn’t: change a thing, that is. My writing group had confirmed what I already knew, that I had become an awesome writer, that my efforts didn’t need revision. They were more like my mom and my fifth grade teacher, telling me I was a good writer; they were nothing like my middle school teacher, who said I lacked creativity. (They were also nothing like my high school teacher, who encouraged me by saying I could be good—if I worked hard, using the creative gifts already given to me.)

A week or so later, I got “Motives Revealed” back from my professor. It was covered in marks, pointing out the errors in my thinking, the lack of any real resources, the shoddy use of clichés. At the end, my professor had written something like “If you ran like you wrote, you’d be swerving all over the track. You need to focus. You need to revise.”

At that moment, I decided to be a sociology major. Almost. Because I also decided that maybe the professor was right, and that my peers were wrong (or at least too nice to tell me the truth). I changed everything: in the essay, in the way I considered my work, and in the way I thought about writing workshops. Which is why now, as an English professor, I still believe in having students share their writing with each other. I also believe that students need to tell the truth about each other’s writing, even when it hurts. Otherwise, the writers may swerve too far afield, and it will be hard to get them back.

The Hypocrisy of my Writing “Process”

I am a hypocrite. About so many things, it’s do as I say, not as I do. (Look there, right in that sentence: I tell my students to avoid using words like ”thing” and “it,” and I used both, one crappy word right after the other.)

Having children made me recognize my hypocrisy every single moment of every single day. Oh sure, before kids, I had these small epiphanies that let me know who I really was, like when I told my classes that brainstorming was the absolute best way to start writing an essay, then sat for hours in front of a blank computer screen, waiting for the muse to begin her work already.

But once my boys arrived, I discovered the deep, deep well of hypocrisy within. Why, just this week I

  • Told them they absolutely could not have soda pop for dinner, because they already had one can each that day, then cracked open my own fourth can of Diet Pepsi, because who can eat pizza without a soda, really?
  • Told them they had spent too much time on their screens that day, even if it was a snow day, then returned to monitoring my own Facebook and Twitter accounts, something I’d done with astounding regularity during our snowcation.
  • Told them they needed to turn off the television and find a book to read, then slipped into the family room so I could watch some of the telly myself. It was the Olympics, after all.
  • Told Son #1 that he needed to stop swearing so much, then dropped an S-bomb not moments later, slipping on my way to the car.

I’m already saving up for their therapy, trust me.

So what does this have to do with the writing process, the topic we’ve been studying in class and about which my students have been prompted to write this week?

Just this: I admit that I am also sometimes a hypocrite when I talk about the writing process. Not just about brainstorming, but about other things, too: about invention, and using writing workshops; about writing shitty first drafts and revising like mad; about not worrying what an audience might think, and about not being motivated by publication.

Because the truth is, I’m just now—20 years into my teaching career—learning that writing rough drafts is okay. That it might be acceptable to write an entire draft before going back to the beginning and revising. That having other people look at your work before you submit it might be a very, very good thing. (Despite having had a writing group for 10 years, there was still work I never showed them.)

I’m still learning, I guess is what I’m saying, still on a journey toward figuring out what my writing process is all about. Someday, maybe in another 20 years, I’ll no longer be motivated by the ideal of publication, too. Then again, I might still be dreaming about getting rich as a writer. Someone has to pay for my kids’ therapy bills, after all.

My Process of Finding Peace (But not the ungodly Hindu Kind)

I am always late to yoga. I am always late, which means I have to walk across the gym, past all the undergraduates also taking yoga, and put my mat down and take off my sweats while, I’m sure, everyone 25 years younger is wondering why the old woman is always late. (Answer: because every time, I think I can get one more email written, one more paper graded, one more page read before yoga begins.)

I should clarify, too, that by yoga class I really mean my core strength and flexibility class. Because the yoga class is being offered at a Christian university, where we don’t countenance the bad ju-ju of any other religion like Hinduism, what with their crazy peace-loving gods, so we cannot call the course yoga. Even if everyone does call the class yoga, except in official catalogs and the like, and we do yoga positions, except not the ones that will ask baby Vishnu into our hearts.

So I’m always late to a class I attend willingly, and have for two years now. The course meets over the lunch hour, saving me the pain of attending every Tuesday’s faculty lunch, where I oft-times get stuck making polite conversation with colleagues who don’t like me very much, if they know who I am. Much preferable is 50 minutes spent contorting my body and seeking inner peace, because let’s face it, even I don’t really know who I am.

About five minutes into the class, though, I’m already looking forward to its conclusion. Not because I don’t like yoga—I’m attending willingly, after all—but because many of the poses are so damn hard, and actually take some effort. After the opening stretches, making small circles with my torso, and a few sun salutations, the hard work begins, and I’m already anxious for the class to be over.

My instructor, who is amazing in every way, tells us this is a noncompetitive class, and that we are supposed to do only as much as our bodies can handle. But I’ve been an athlete who competes for over thirty years now, and old habits die hard—harder than old bodies. So when the 19-year-old next to me can only do three crocodile push-ups, I smirk inwardly (a Zen-smirk, perhaps?) because I know I can do five. A few minutes later, when she does a perfect headstand and I can’t even get one foot off the ground, I tell myself  “oh well, so what if you can do a headstand? It’s not a competitive class.” And then I try anyway, because I should be able to do what any 19-year-old can do, right?

Wrong. I cannot. My muscles are stiff, my joints achy. This is the reason I signed up for yoga, core strength, whatever, in the first place: my body ached from too much running, and too little stretching. My then-74-year-old mom had been practicing yoga for a decade, and extolling its benefits on her joints, her balance. Two years later, she’s still practicing, and while my body feels less beat up, I’m sure she still does yoga better than I do.

Not that I’m competing with her.

I know class is reaching its end because we start doing stretches on our hamstrings and our backs. I’ve only looked at the clock about a dozen times, and see that we have only ten minutes left of class. Now, I start feeling a little sad that it’s almost over, even if I do have a sandwich waiting for me back in my office. I also have work waiting for me back in the office, and while I’ve spent half of the class thinking about my to-do list—in between moments of trying to focus my mind—I’m not ready yet to tackle the list that now seems imminent.

Then, it’s time for rest and relaxation, called something Hindu in real yoga. For us, it just means stretching out on our mats for a quick nap, which is what it turns out to be for me, even if there are only waning minutes left of class. I drift into sleep, worried I might snore or snort or something, and only moments later, the teacher tells us that time’s up, that we need to go back to real life.

I swim back to consciousness, feeling a little groggy and sick because even in a few minutes, I can go into deep sleep. Scrambling around for my shoes, my jacket, my mat, I try to get up and begin walking, but I’m a little too relaxed so that my journey back across campus is more like a drunken slog.

Or not a drunken slog, because that sounds too negative. I’m floating, really, abandoned to my own little world, if only for a few moments. People say hi as I walk by, their voices obscured by my rummy head. My sandwich beckons, and I respond, sitting down at my desk a little more at peace than what I was just one hour earlier. Obviously, yoga—excuse me, core strength and flexibility—has done its job.

Learning to be Good Enough

Last night, my son finished his weekly writing project about 30 minutes after I wanted to go to bed. So I was feeling a little grumpy already when he asked me to read it and sign the parental form, letting the teacher know I’d offered some editorial feedback on his work.

I hadn’t provided any editorial feedback, mind you; my son had written his rough and then final draft before I had a chance to see either. I signed the form anyway because I wanted to go to bed. You do what you have to do.

I did read the piece, about getting puppies at pet stores versus getting them at an animal shelter. I could tell in the first sentence that this was not his best work—not by far. Part of the problem is that he had no authority upon which to base his opinion, since he’d never heard about puppy mills or the oft-times bad reputation of pet stores; all he knows is the animal shelter dog we have, the one who is kind and cuddly, but who also eats donuts off tables and tries to run away whenever the front door opens.

But that was the prompt, and he chose to argue that pet store puppies were far superior to animal shelter puppies, and he wrote several crappy sentences, calling it good.

“This isn’t your best work, you know,” I said. Yes, yes, mothers are supposed to like everything their children do, raining down praise on everything, even the most meager creations. It was late (8:45 at least!), my guard was down, making me more honest than I probably should have been.

He just shrugged.

“I know,” he said. “Can I play Clash of Clans?”

I suppose I could have made him do the entire piece over. Could have made him be clearer about why pet store puppies are cuter than those at animal shelters. Could have told him that the comma splice in line three was aggravating me, just a little.

My son has realized an important element of being a writer, though. That is: sometimes good enough is good enough. The topic wasn’t inspiring to him, and he didn’t have the writing mojo to produce a masterpiece. He knew what he’d produce would be fine for a sixth grade English class, which on this Thursday, was fine for him, too.

Two weeks ago, for the same class, he wrote an assignment about racism, honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. He started early, researched good quotes to include, spent ample time in revision. He read the piece out loud to me once, and then again, and again. He read it to his dad, and his grandma. He wanted to make it just right. We all told him, again and again, how much we loved his work. His teacher gave him a “great job!” on his paper, high praise indeed.

Not even baseball players can knock it out of the park every time at bat. When I manage to land a publication or when I grouse to myself about the good work I seem incapable of producing; when an editor writes me, accepting or rejecting a query; when a positive comment on my blog makes me high or a negative comment sends me into a tailspin: when I face the vagaries of life as a writer, I need to remember that sometimes being a successful writer means publication, and an adoring audience.

Sometimes being a successful writer means producing something that’s good enough, and then moving on to whatever awaits: Clash of Clans, bedtime, another day’s work.