Sunday, April 1, 2018

Adopting a Growth Mindset

On Tuesday, I will attend the final class for the Adjunct Certification Program I enrolled in this spring. It was a LEAP that truly stretched me, and the final class will stretch me even more, as I have to facilitate a 10-minute presentation in front of my colleagues. 

When I signed up for the program, I felt that I was managing my classrooms pretty well, but I wondered if formal training would help me improve. Now that the eight weeks are coming to a close, approximately 40-50 hours of my life poured into studying the art of teaching, the verdict is in: the leap was worth the effort. The training not only informed my everyday teaching efforts, but it inspired me, it grew me, and it opened my eyes to new ways to engage my students - which is a win-win, because a fully engaged classroom energizes me and makes all those non-paid planning and grading hours well worth the sacrifice.

As the weeks wore on, I did grow weary. Life is busy, my husband has been plagued again with debilitating fatigue for months, and my writing career is growing more demanding. 

BUT...I was reminded of how much I love learning. I'm fascinated by the research on how the mind continues to grow as we feed it, and that success is not determined by our intellectual abilities as much as it is determined by our level of determination and grit. (Check out this TedTalk on Grit if you have seven minutes to be inspired.) For as long as I teach, I hope I always look for ways to improve my methods and increase my connection with my students.

In the same way, I think it's time to step up my game with the craft of writing. I have written and studied writing all of my life. Back before AP classes were common, I sailed through AP English and loved every minute of a class most of my classmates dreaded. I studied journalism in college and then many forms of nonfiction writing in graduate school. Since my goal was a career in journalism, I never spent much time studying fiction writing, which is kind of ironic. 

I think I will always be more confident writing nonfiction than fiction because nonfiction requires less from-scratch imagination. Nonfiction work presents me with ready-made stories that I get to craft into compelling narratives that generally are no longer than 2,000 words. On the other hand, fiction writing requires me to concoct every detail of a story and then craft all those details into a compelling and lengthy manuscript (upwards of 50,000 words). I am not innately creative in coming up with original story ideas or envisioning concrete characters. I have spent a lot of time lacking confidence in this area, observing other authors who pump out books several times a year and have seemingly no trouble coming up with new stories. But, as I grew as a teacher during my adjunct certification class, I started to realize that there is room for me to grow as a writer as well.

I know that I will continue to grow my craft as I write and revise manuscripts, but I also know that there are many writers and teachers with knowledge and experience to share that can help me develop my fiction writing skills - and I could really use a boost!

So, my next LEAP for 2018 is attending a writer's conference. I attended the RWA conference a few years ago with my sisters and my mom, and we had a blast, but life circumstances aren't lining up for all of us to go this year, so I was just planning to stay home. The idea of attending the conference alone is a little intimidating, to be honest.  But my husband encouraged me to go anyway, and I have to admit that the idea of a few nights to myself in a hotel room began to sound pretty enticing. So I reserved a hotel room and booked my airfare to attend RWA in Denver in July. 

I can't wait to listen and learn and grow more as a fiction writer. My nonfiction dreams are still very much alive, but simmering on the back burner for now. In the meantime, I'm diving into a list of fiction writers' reference books (you can view them on my "the craft of writing" list over at Goodreads) to expand my horizons as I plug away on manuscript revisions for the second book in the Shield Protection miniseries.

Be encouraged today: If you have an idea or a goal or a dream you want to pursue, don't let the fear of failure stop you. 

"Failure is so important. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success."
-J.K. Rowling

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