Rewind: Lessons from Martial Arts on Writing and Failure
Cultivating a Beginner's Mind
Publish Not Perish is currently on a winter hiatus, which will run from December 11th to January 9th! I will be taking a break from publishing new posts this month to rest, reflect, and prepare for the new year! Never fear, dear readers; I will continue to send content to your inboxes each week, but it will take the form of rewinding old posts or sharing content from other writers during my hiatus.
The day my advisor’s red pen found me was devastating. I was in year one of graduate school, and it was the first time she had read my work. Her feedback was kind and constructive, but somehow the amount of work that paper required made me feel like a failure.
Looking back, I wonder why I had ever expected to be a good writer in my first year as an MA student. Perhaps it’s because I always enjoyed writing and people told me I was good at it. Perhaps it was because I had decided academia was the life for me, so I should be good at writing as a prerequisite. Whatever the reason, I had high expectations for myself that never really included learning from things I didn’t already do well. My imposter syndrome and perfectionism were in full force.
For the next several years, my writer self-esteem plummeted because I received so much feedback on how to improve. It wasn’t only seminar papers. I lost writing awards, I was denied fellowships, and I received journal rejections. My first revise and resubmit shattered me because I had worked so long and hard to perfect that article. My advisor and a trusted committee member had told me the article was ready to submit, so why was I still failing? I began to think I wasn’t a good writer and enjoyed it less and less.
Writing was hard and I lost so many sparring matches with it.