Liz Garton Scanlon (liz_scanlon) wrote,
Liz Garton Scanlon
liz_scanlon

Humility and Audacity

I had coffee this morning with my newish department head at ACC.
She's the bomb.
Smart and calm and assured and idea-centered.

The kind of person with whom you can talk about real stuff and not get rattled

So we were talking about teaching.
And, in particular, about teaching creative work within the confines of an academic environment.

We touched on deadlines and grades.
We touched on craft.
We touched on clever assignments.

And then we settled into how we might help students come to something deeper than just a class -- a practice that will extend way beyond December and will allow their writing to become not individual "assignments" but rather bigger works in progress, full of possibility.

The only way to do this, as far as either of us could see, is to encourage openness to revision.

If students aren't receptive to the concept of revision, willing to listen to critiques and suggestions, and ready to take on the actual practice, then everything they write is sort of a one-shot deal -- potentially kind of vivid but quick to fizzle.

And of course the same is true for all of us.
Getting stuck in our own stuff and being unwilling to listen, tweak, undo or mess with means that it will never evolve like it might've.
And, likewise, getting paralyzed by workshops, critiques or requests for revisions stops us from fully realizing the possibility of a piece.

So what Charlotte recommends to her students is that they come to the process with a balance of humility and audacity.

Humility = willingness to listen, openness to change, acceptance of critique
Audacity = fearlessness, relentlessness, self-confidence

Most of us tend to fall a little too far on one side of the teeter-totter, but I think she's right.
We need both to grow our work as big as it can be.

I'm telling my students that and I'm telling myself...

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