Chapter 4 – Keeping My Ego Intact

So how did I keep my ego intact? It didn’t seem like it was that hard at the time. I was pretty humbled by realizing how well I could write if I worked enough on my craft. Seeing my own progress and having one of those major light bulb moments every once in a while, did keep me going. That’s what’s been working for me since I finished my degree too. In school, I focused on a couple of ways to improve my writing and when I thought I was mastering those techniques at least reasonably well, I looked for different techniques I could use or problems in my writing. I could have done that outside the program except I wouldn’t have been receiving feedback from my teachers and peers.

When someone said that my writing had improved, it was a great gift and I looked for more ways to keep getting better. I discovered that I’d never had “writer’s block” only cases of procrastination like everyone else. If I wasn’t interested in working on what I’d planned for any particular day, I worked on something else. When our teacher talked about writing in a journal as a way to keep us writing every day, she could have just told us to write about something different or (ha!) blogging of course.

Writing every day was a significant change for me. Something was missing if I didn’t write on any particular day. If I’d run a writing marathon the day before, I might not want to write as much the next day. Still, I’d think about my current projects and jot down at least a few paragraphs, even if I wrote them longhand in my journal. Most of the time, I focused on what I could to improve that day and left the other problems for some time in the future when I would be able to think of a solution.

There were so many people at different stages of their writing in my program that I didn’t feel deficient most of the time. Students were constantly evaluating each other, looking for a leg-up on the competition. I was convinced that no one should have felt like they were falling behind. We’d all started with different strengths and we needed to develop the skills that we didn’t have – once we figured out what they were!

The process seemed to be so intimate that there was no reason for anyone to think they were doing it wrong. They just needed to keep moving forward and not quit! The writing life did seem to be a journey after all, a very personal one.

I kept telling myself that I had to believe in myself, the same thing that I told my sons. I would learn and get better along the way. If a passage that I’d written didn’t work, what changes could I make that would let me express what was inside my head? If an idea wasn’t good, where could I get another one or what other ideas could I add to the mix to make the story more complete?

I love the act of writing. I told myself that it didn’t matter if people in my classes loved my writing and tried not to think of being published at all. What could I do that day to become a better writer?

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About marystojak

Mary Stojak has published numerous short stories, her latest will be published September 28th in Mystery Weekly.
This entry was posted in Graduate Writing Programs, Johns Hopkins University and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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