Remember 7th Grade?

The prompt: Writing. ( What’s this?  )

What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing —and can you eliminate it?
(Author: Leo Babauta)

(WARNING: In the first third of this story, I am going to seem quite full of myself. In the second third, I’ll appear a little too hard on myself. I’ll let the final third be a surprise.)

In seventh grade, I wrote a paper on the topic “What Makes Of Mice and Men a Classic?” I can’t remember what my argument was, but the final, oh-so-creative line went something like: “…and that is why Of Mice and Men is a classic.” The teacher’s comment which followed, however, has been tattooed on my soul: “…and so is this paper. This is the best paper I have ever read by a seventh grader. Well done, Madeleine.”

I coasted on that adrenaline rush all the way through senior year of high school. I had an identity now – Best Seventh Grade Writer, and I liked it. Of course I would major in English Lit. Of course I would have a job someday that involved writing. Duh.

Then came college. In my freshman year, I wrote my first college essay for an Introduction to Communications class. I also have a soul tattoo of this teacher’s comment: “This essay ignores or doesn’t understand most of the basic rules of writing structure. You may want to consider transferring from this course to this other, more remedial writing course.” Okay, he didn’t use the term remedial, but he suggested a dumbed-down writing course for those not prepared for such lofty intellectual pursuits as Introduction to Communications.

And just like that, I had a new identity. I was Worst College Freshman Writer…Ever. I limped my way through four more years and got my degree and I couldn’t tell you most of what I wrote about. It was agony. And I graduated and, with a few exceptions, didn’t write again. For fifteen years.

Until last week. When I started this blog, and reverb 10, all at once.

The Buddhists would call this problem addiction to praise and aversion to blame. The Yogis would call it attachment to action’s fruit. What my own small experience of meditation and yoga has taught me is that if writing is ever going to bring me pleasure again, I have to engage in writing for it’s own sake, with no expectation of outcome.

In other words, if you like this post, I will continue writing forever. If you don’t like it, I’m never going to write again. No pressure!

About madyoga

Yoga Teacher and Massage Therapist in Sacramento, CA
This entry was posted in #Reverb10 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Remember 7th Grade?

  1. schmutzie says:

    I like it!

    No, seriously, I really do 🙂

  2. blogasana says:

    ha! love it – no pressure. thank GOD 7th grade is over =)

  3. Jason says:

    Stephen King was told he would never make it as a writer!! I, being a huge fan of his, am glad he didn’t listen and stuck to his creative tendencies and made a go of it anyway. If it wasn’t for our failures our triumphs would not be as sweet as they are. Persevere.

  4. Manderz says:

    I like this post! I remember so many of the extreme comments of praise and reprimand I’ve received over the years. It is hard to let go of them.

  5. donna says:

    boy, you really were able to get me to feel my versions of the same kinds of experience. Still struggle with “approval = worth.” Not sure it ever goes away…(sorry).

    Yep, I liked it… so let the words flow.

  6. donna says:

    boy, you really were able to get me to feel my versions of the same kinds of experience. Still struggle with “approval = worthiness.” Not sure it ever goes away…(sorry).

    Yep, I liked it… so let the words flow.

  7. Laila says:

    I’m willing to bet almost anything his name was Brian, and he was a T.A. Was it Brian? ‘Cause Brian the T.A. from Intro to Communications in first year did EXACTLY the same thing to me. 😦

  8. Bob says:

    Thumbs up. Like.

  9. ghostyorb says:

    emails, song lyrics, facebook posts and now blogging. I have always been a fan of your words dearest. keep’em coming! xo

  10. i don’t even know what to say – other than, we’ve been living in a parallel universe. glad we’ve decided to finally intersect.

  11. My seventh grade English teacher, upon hearing that I wanted to write and teach English told me I was “a shitty writer who should figure out an alternate career as soon as possible.” Since now I make money as a writer and English teacher, that guy can suck it. But yeah, I think this is a common experience. Makes me consider my own role in the classroom. You’re rockin’ this, lady!

  12. bachatero80 says:

    We like it. We really, really like it.

  13. A wise woman once told me that I needed to have confidence in my writing and I didn’t really understand that until I started to have confidence in my writing! Haha! What a terrible thing for a college professor to put on the paper of a budding writing! Goodness! I, for one, am very happy that you’re writing and look forward to much more!

  14. Amanda says:

    I too know the addiction to praise and external approval. It is a HARD habit to break. (And one that our current education instills in us – no wonder we’re Pavlovian dogs for A pluses!)

    I worry sometimes that as a blogger I’m just feeding myaddiction, measuring my worth by comments and unique visits… but where does my “attachment” end, and the true pleasure of knowing other people are interested in what I have to say, begin? Isn’t it only human to thrill at the idea that something you say resonates for another human being? Isn’t that connecting?

    Anyway, I really understand where you’re coming from and am glad you’re writing… I love the notion of a “soul tattoo” and love today’s post about finding aliveness in every moment… I bet you’re a great yoga teacher.

  15. tizz says:

    how sweet is this! a really brilliant response. it can be difficult to be on either end of the spectrum–even the highs come with pressure, and expectations. 🙂

  16. Ramona says:

    I liked it too. Made me think about my own 7th grade experiences.

  17. Pingback: In Case You Missed It Edition! Volume 8 « Teacher Goes Back to School

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  19. Kathy says:

    Madeleine: Thanks for sharing yourself by day as our fearless yoga teacher and by night as a fearless writer.

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