Monday, August 5, 2013

IWSG: First Drafts

First Wed of Every Month

This is my first ever IWSG post. I never thought I'd find a use for this group- after all, I am a reader, not a writer. However, I started writing my college application essay recently, and I thought it might be a good idea to join this group. I am incredibly insecure about first drafts, especially this particular one.

Before I start my rant about the reasons why I am so insecure, I'll take a minute to introduce myself. My name is Morgan. I'm 17, and I am an insecure writer.

Yes, that introduction was short and sweet, because I want time to rant. The reason I am so insecure about this essay is because I suck at writing, and because this essay is extremely personal and I only want certain people to read it. I have always thought I was a decent writer, but that train of thought changed this past school year. I had worked incredibly hard on a huge research paper for english. I showed it to my teacher, and she ripped- excuse me, RIPPED- me apart. I was devastated, and convinced myself that I sucked at writing. I dug myself into a hole that I am slowly trying to get myself out of. Anyone else ever have this experience?

Getting on to the second point, my essay is extremely personal- I had a rare type of cancer when I was 15. Because I'm writing the essay on it, I don't want just anyone to look at it. I have an irrational fear of people freaking out, when really there is no need to. Freaking out just makes the other person feel very uncomfortable and vulnerable. Trust me- I've learned the hard way. I'm almost scared to ask strangers to edit it because of that irrational fear.


  1. You're right to rant, Morgan. It's terrible that your teacher ripped your work apart. That's just not helpful and they should know better. If it needed improvement, or even totally reworking then of course you need to know that, but that information could, and should, have been passed on in a more constructive manner.

    Could you perhaps write something less personal first and seek feedback on that from another person and show them your essay after you've developed some trust in their opinion?

  2. Sigh I wish I could give you advice that's easy, but I can't.

    I'm with Patsy that it was wrong of the teacher to rip your work apart.

    At the same time, it's something that's always possible when you write something that someone else will read.

    Basically, you have two choices. Either you can let criticism convince you that you're bad. Or you can draw your own conclusions.

    Go look at the piece that the teacher ripped. Try to look at it from someone else's point of view. Read it as you'd read something written by someone else. Did her criticism have a good point? If yes, learn from it. No matter how mean she was. Take what YOU'VE found to be less than good and learn from it. Improve.

    If you really REALLY can't find anything wrong, you're safe to assume that it was her opinion. Writing is subjective, so you're never going to be able to please everyone. The best you can do is write the best piece you can.

    That's how you become less scared. You learn. You keep going until you become comfortable and you find ways to improve your previous writing weaknesses.

    As for your fear of people freaking out, I think I can understand. I have my own irrational fears. But the fact is, if writing this piece is vitally important to you, you're going to have to step up and get it written.

    And I volunteer to read it for you. I'm pretty good at constructive crit. But then you must be wanting to improve. My e-mail address is mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com, if you're interested.

    Best of luck!

  3. Hi Morgan :) Patsy's and Misha's comments are so comprehensive that I haven't really got a lot to add. But, as a tutor myself, even a student did present me with a piece of work that needed attention, there's no way I would have made her feel so bad. Criticism is supposed to be constructive, so that you learn from it. Don't let one bad experience put you off writing xx
    Suzanne @ Suzannes-Tribe

  4. Dear Morgan,
    I am one of the co-hosts of ISWG and I am here to welcome you to the group and respond to your post. I am 64 years old and went back to finish college in my 50s. Please please please don't let what college professors tell you about your writing affect the way you feel about your writing. There job is to rip students' writing apart, supposedly so they can teach you how to write better. I can tell from this post that you know how to write. Trust, me, the more you write, the better you'll get, and editors are a godsend to making one's writing better. As to the personal part of the essay, I write personal essays and it is hard to share your innermost secrets with the rest of the world. If it helps get you into the college of your choice, it will be worth it, yes?

  5. i'm sorry that you had such a bad experience with a teacher. no one, i mean no one, has the right to rip your work apart, especially when you're first starting to write. i've been in that kind of hole due to a family member ripping my novel apart--and she didn't know a thing about writing. eventually i found the courage to keep going. i hope you do too.

  6. and i wanted to say, welcome to the IWSG family.

  7. That teacher's reaction--it's her problem, not yours. I know. I'm a teacher. The more unusual you are, the better for the world. We need independent, creative, clever people. Keep it up!

  8. You know what? Teachers who react that way don't deserve to be teachers. Don't let them get you down. Writing is subjective and not everyone can be pleased. Some of the most famous, popular, and studied authors in the world thought they were complete failures until their death. Keep writing. And more importantly, write for yourself and NOT for your stupid teacher.

  9. Yet another teacher apologising for the bad one in your life ;)
    Good luck with the college application. I suggest you sit and pour out absolutely everything onto paper, to get it out of your head. Then take a deep breath, sit back, read through and pick out the important points and start a more considered draft. Hope you get what you want from it - including a boost to your writing confidence :)

  10. Welcome to IWSG, Morgan. I'm way older than you, but I'm also an insecure writer who can totally relate. Looking forward to reading more IWSG posts.

  11. Welcome to IWSG!!! I don't blame you for feeling insecure: it's incredibly hard to be so vulnerable, and to let other people read about it. But there's often a lot of strength to be found in doing that. And there's a huge chance you might help someone else, inspire someone else, give someone else a boost, and help them get through another day.

    All of which is to say, tell your story. It's yours, and it's valuable, and it deserves to be told.

  12. Welcome to the group! I'm sorry you had a teacher that did that to you. It always drives me crazy as a teacher myself. But you will be stronger for it. There are those teachers that push the ones they find with the most potential the hardest, then there are those that just shouldn't teach. No matter what type of teacher this one is, let the experience make you better. What you are doing is amazing and don't let anyone scare you into a corner. You have a powerful story to tell and anyone that gets to read it is lucky.

    Meredith’s Musings

  13. I'll share two stories with you about my old English teachers, and I hope they help.

    I wrote an essay my junior year of high school that I thought was amazing. I used a bunch of big words and complicated sentence structures, and I thought I'd get an A for sure. The next day, the teacher read my essay to the class, pointing out every single mistake. The whole class burst out laughing at how horrible my writing was. At the end, someone asked who wrote it, and the teacher looked straight at me and said, "I don't remember. I think it was someone from the other section."

    I took that as my teacher's way of saying, "James, I know you can do better than this."

    The other story is from my senior year. A different teacher, one who I had enormous respect for and who had always encouraged me as a writer, told me, "James, I don't think you'll ever understand this poetry stuff." Because of my enormous respect for that particular teacher, I took this statement at face value and, until recently, never questioned that poetry was beyond my abilities. That only changed a few months ago after a discussion I had with my editor, and I am now taking my first timid steps into writing poems.

    The point of these two stories is this: sometimes teachers rip your work apart because they know you can do better. Other times, they do it because they're human, and humans make mistakes.

    As for the subject of your essay, if you're uncomfortable talking about your cancer, then write about why that makes you uncomfortable. In fact, that could be a much more compelling essay than the story of the cancer itself.

    I hope that helps, and good luck!

    - James

  14. Consider finding someone to swap critiques with. It could be another student who writes well or an author who would consider swapping an equal-sized portion of their manuscript with you for your essay so you can give each other feedback (with no money changing hands).

    The other side of this is that you have to be willing to accept constructive criticism. Being rude and harsh when giving feedback is not cool, but even kind comments can feel like 'ripping' if you're not used to it. Take a break, take a walk, and come back to the crit. Chances are, things will look better once you've let your hackles settle back down, and you'll be able to benefit from the advice. ;)

    Welcome to the group! :)
    August co-host and IWSG #110

  15. Hello Morgan! I'm glad to have found you. I'm an English teacher, but not of the ilk you're talking about. Work submitted to students (especially when they're specifically asked to write memoir) is often intensely personal and we don't have permission to share indiscriminately with others, especially a class of your peers.

    I would like to personally welcome you to Write...Edit...Publish. Thank you for signing up and correcting the link address. Of course, if you write prose for us everyone will read/comment on it, so you have to put at the end of your entry what sort of comments you want. You can ask for general comments only if that's what you'd prefer.

    Thanks for introducing yourself to us and welcome to IWSG!


  16. Morgan, that was just one person's opinion, and she didn't handle it well.
    Sometimes it's the things we are the most afraid to reveal that draw others to us the most. Find someone you trust to read it first. That will give you the confidence you need.
    And welcome to the IWSG!


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