Academic Update: The Fears of My First Residency

Isn't this the cutest piece of truth you ever did see?

Well, so far I have tackled the residency, and I am knee deep into the first practicum of the program. All in all, I am having a wonderful time learning about the craft. It’s not that I am unhappy with education I’m getting. Instead, I am frustrated with myself for not being “as smart as I need to be” while writing. I understand and respect the need for criticism. It is the most helpful tool for professors to give to their students.

On the positive note, I have passed the dreaded Integrative Essay, my first fiction submission, and my first critical essay. I should be ecstatic that I didn’t fail, considering there are only three options: fail, pass, pass with distinction. Somehow, I can’t get over the feeling that just passing is not enough. I know, it’s a Master’s program, it’s more difficult by design. I should be proud of my accomplishments, but I’m not. Maybe it’s the perfectionist inside, striving towards the pass with distinction. Maybe I’m afraid that my writing isn’t good enough. It’s a fluke and I managed to squeeze by until now. All of these concerns are racing through my head as I read my mentor’s criticisms.

However, it is making me feel considerable more helpless about my skills. I’m not as confident in my own writing anymore because I feel like I am losing my ability to write well. The one time I am shown how to vary sentence structure, and I become paranoid about it. Are these sentences fragments? Does this comma go here? Should I end this sentence in this? All of these questions are being answered, but not correctly by my own brain. Grammar and sentence structure should not be the criticisms I’m getting. I’m a native English speaker in addition to enjoying the language. So why is this so damn hard to accomplish?

Sometimes I feel like Jack from The Shining-crazy with nothing good to show for it

Then comes the ego, when I begin comparing my flaws with the others in my group. In my mind, I’m convinced they don’t have these problems. They can’t be suffering from the same ailments as I am. When we move up to more difficult mentors, what happens when I can’t provide the pass? Will I settle for pass rather than strive to get that “with distinction” or will my writing actually improve with practice?

With all of these questions, I barely have room in my head for my writing. Hopefully, after spilling the beans on here I will have the courage to try again. I want to work harder, make myself a better writer, and show the world the ideas I have to offer. I’m just praying that these fears are normal. I’m not crazy over critical because other students have suffered like this.

What are your fears about your writing? Do you struggle with imperfection or attempting to improve your writing? How do you cope?

I know that I may be afraid of what I can and can’t write at the moment, but I will force myself to start writing again. I might take a break, read for pleasure ( I still have the rest of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 to finish), and then come back to my writing with new confidence. I just hopes my confidence doesn’t take too long to find its way back.


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3 responses to “Academic Update: The Fears of My First Residency

  1. One of the hardest things when I first started writing and found a writer’s group to critique my work was taking the criticism without bursting into tears. My first writer’s group was BRUTAL! They were also right about most things that were wrong with those early pieces. I quickly learned to develop a thick skin, accepting their critiques with a grain of salt. If there was a common criticism among the six other writers, I would take it seriously and go back to fix whatever they thought the problem was. Sometimes, it was just a personal quirk with an individual that the others did not share.

    I have found over the years, including my high school years (way back when!) that everyone brings their own preconceived ideas about what they expect when they read something and that reflects on HOW they read someone else’s work. I am reminded of the movie with Rodney Dangerfield where he goes to college with his son and takes an English Lit class. He got a scathing report on his analysis of a book, then he gets on the phone with the actual author and reams him out for giving him the wrong answers! It just goes to show that one person’s impressions of a piece of writing does not always jive with someone else’s, even the author’s!

    I know that’s little consolation when you are trying to impress your prof in University, but let me tell you something: My tenth grade English teacher hated everything I did. I barely passed her class, but the next year I was getting straight ‘A’s in English Lit. I would love to go back to that teacher and show her my two published novels and throw them in her face saying, ‘See? Somebody liked my writing well enough to publish it!’ just to see the look on her face (if she even remembered me since I wasn’t one of her ‘pets’) What I’m trying to say is, don’t get discouraged because of the criticism of your professor. Don’t give up on writing because you’ve lost confidence in yourself. You may be better than that one person (your prof) thinks! 🙂

    • Thank you so much for the response! I haven’t lost confidence entirely. I don’t think she hates my stuff, but I always want to please people. Maybe I just have to wait until someone is pleased with me as I am rather than with massive improvements. I hope I can go back and throw it in the faces of everyone who didn’t have confidence in me when I get published. 🙂 I’ll be sure to come back to this again if I doubt myself. This makes me want to tackle the next part of my story. 🙂

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