If it’s spring, then it must be time for fresh ideas. In my case, this means digging into my personal bag of tricks and finding new ways to practice what I preach to students. But first I need to set the scene for you….
Let me begin by saying that there is nothing scarier than standing in front of a class room. The first 10 minutes of the very first day of a new semester is always a potential deal breaker. Imagine those cynical eyeballs watching your every move, evaluating your clothes, looking for signs that you are yet another idiot who is going to waste their time and money.
So over the years, I have come up with some foolproof, attention-grabbing ways to keep them interested. What follows is my two-prong advice for writing clearly which is also a good life lesson that I need to practice myself now in setting priorities for the new season.
Okay, the scene: A room of impressionable young souls in the classroom. Me at the front, blathering about good writing skills. I tell them that I have tips that former students used to become professional journalists who are now working at major news organizations all over the world — which is totally true. I was also accurate in informing them that former students who went on to non-journalism careers value the tips too.
“Be sure to write this down,” I bark. “This is why you’re paying a ton of money to be here with me.”
As they wait with either pens poised over paper or fingers hovering over laptop keyboards, I hit the whiteboard.
Fond memories of this moment recently surfaced on Twitter when a dear former student called me out. Here’s what he tweeted:
It includes a link to a photo of a page from his class notes that day:
Haha! Chris is a future lawyer. He always took great, accurate notes. Which means that I am guilty as charged. When you’re dealing with me, this is what passes for, um, pedagogy. :)
But the moment works. I’ve challenged their assumptions about learning. To write curse words into their notes instantly jolts them into experiencing a memorable message: You can’t truly express yourself and be yourself unless you’re honest with yourself. They get it.
Whether I am figuring out how to write and structure a story, composing a drawing or painting, or reorganizing my desk, it’s critical to cut through the bullshit and get to the f$%&#ng point! Why am I doing this? What do I hope to accomplish? Talking myself through these questions in raw, uncensored language allows me to laser in on the heart of things.
This is also true of my life right now in non-writing priorities. My head is full of plans and dreams for the year ahead. More on that later. But to make any of them reality, it would help if I got real with myself. What do I really want and why do I want it?
Down the road, the ability to honestly answer that questions will save me a lot of time, energy, money and heartache.
The best part of getting real is that if I have clarity about the tasks ahead, I will spend less time spinning my wheels. That, in turn, might inspire me to be like our cat Minty, who is an expert at vegging in a celebration of life. This is how he kept me company the other night at my desk, while I was busy paying some bills:
So here’s to my hope that we spend the upcoming week honoring our true feelings. If you have thoughts on that mission, please do share!