Physician, Heal Thyself

It’s been a rough week.

It’s been finals week, and I have five classes that I am responsible for. That went relatively smoothly, but there’s a lot of work grading and making sure the final grade is truly representative of what I think the student’s effort deserves.

Then I’ve had a magazine to put to bed. I’m the editor of the University’s official magazine, which comes out twice a year. Since I’m on vacation next week, and the University president and the VP I answer to will both be gone for a month, there’s more pressure to get it done, or at least as much as possible, before everyone disappears. On top of that, someone I rely on to help with photography was sick all last week and in meetings this week. So yesterday and the day before were hustle days. We’re pretty close, but not quite there.

And some of the stress is self inflicted. I finished interior formatting for “The Stranger,” my collection of short stories that I hope to release very soon as a free ebook. Formatting is finished, but I am working with my son on the cover, and part of that was setting up the photo shoot for the cover image.

On top of all of this, I’ve been having stomach cramps and indigestion all week, nonstop. I got invited to eat at a Thai restaurant earlier this week, and I declined. On a good day, Thai food and I don’t agree. This week would be Custer’s Last Stand.

And finally, I got my first bad review for Tom Horn this week. I read the review and I don’t see where the critic is coming from. The stuff that he says my manuscript is guilty of are things I am very conscious of when I evaluate my students’ work.

It’s a good thing I teach writing.

More than once, I have mumbled and grumbled about some writing problem I have had, only to remember the advice I have given others. In this case, if I were my student, I would tell myself, “Self, one review does not a career make. When you see more than one person complaining about the same thing, it’s time to sit up and take notice.”

As a teacher, it’s also good for me to go through the frustrations that my students face, in this case, people who read your work and don’t read it right or don’t understand it. And there is the very real possibility that the critic is absolutely correct. So I can commiserate with my students when I tear their work apart. I had one student this semester who I could see had a very difficult time with the things I was telling her. But as the semester wore on, she got use to the criticism, and in fact, welcomed it as something necessary to help her grow emotionally and as a writer.

I tell my students often that I believe I learn more by teaching than my students do. And this is such a case. I want to grow as a writer. And even though I don’t agree with this critic, I am glad that I hearing these things. Or at least I think I am….

It’s easy to get your ego caught up in what you do. But remember, you’re only as good as your next book, so there is always room to grow.