Like most university professors, I am an over-achieving perfectionist who would never admit to needing help with writing.
I can recall the anxiety I would have as I sent a chapter revision to my dissertation advisor, about a decade ago...Wwhy I was so nervous? I may never know. But, there it is. The fear of being wrong. Or, maybe it was the fear of getting feedback? Maybe thinking my work wasn’t good enough?
After completing the National Writing Project's Invitational Summer Institute in 2015, I realized that feedback doesn’t necessarily imply that anything is bad or sub-par, it just can be better. The reader has questions or thoughts. They are interacting with the text in a meaningful way.
I embrace feedback now!
In fact, instead of stewing over a revision or hiding the fact that I am stuck, I noticed that I look for help. For example, I am working on a chapter in an edited collection about teachers in stage productions and I got to a point where I couldn’t see where I was going. I made salient points about my subject, reinforced my stance with evidence from the script and libretto, but just didn’t see how to bring the chapter to a conclusion.
The old version of me would have just written gibberish in the hopes that the editor would help to shape it; this time, I just put a side note in the text directly to the editor. And, when I received her feedback, she addressed my problem with clarity.
I have grown into my writer-identity and I know that, for me, writing does not happen in isolation. It requires the help of an informed reader.
Pauline Schmidt is Associate Professor of English Education at West Chester University. She is the Director of the Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project and the Co-Advisor of the NCTE Student Affiliate. She is fanatical about chocolate, Harry Potter, and advocating for quality public education for all students.