Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Gilbert’

The perils of praise or blame for young writers. New ways to help students find their own voice.

April 13, 2019

The teaching of writing has evolved over the decades. Teachers used to praise students for duplicating what they were instructed to write, or criticized and graded poorly for not meeting established norms. This practice of praise or blame created consequences that were detrimental to the writer. They doubted their own natural ability to express themselves in writing, wondering whether it was good or not.

W.S. Merwin, in his poem, Berryman,* about his college professor John Berryman, asks him “how can you ever be sure that what you write is really any good at all?” He gives him an unexpected honest answer.

I had hardly begun to read
I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can’t

you can’t you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don’t write

Nearly three decades after he mentored Merwin, Berryman would encapsulate his advice to young writers in this Paris Review interview, on the perils of praise and blame.

I would recommend the cultivation of extreme indifference to both praise and blame because praise will lead you to vanity, and blame will lead you to self-pity, and both are bad for writers.

It’s interesting to see this explanation—how praise (fame) or blame (criticism) might influence a young writer’s psychology, and therefore his or her creative output and development as a writer. Advising them to stay true to themselves, remain unswayed by public opinion, would allow them to maintain their own integrity as artists.

David Lynch is another artist who always follows his own muse and tells young filmmakers to do the same. Answering a student’s question about his creative process, he says we’re nothing without an idea. Using a fishing analogy, he explains that a desire for an idea is like a bait on a hook. He gives a detailed account of how he falls in love with ideas, turns them into a script, and transforms them into a film, or other works of art. To catch bigger fish, you have to dive deeper. David describes daydreaming and TM as ways to get there. He tells students to stay true to their vision, to meditate, and most importantly, to always have the final cut.

In this interview, he answers the same question, but from a different perspective: In the other room, the puzzle is all together, but they keep flipping in just one piece at a time.

Learning by doing: writing and teaching

When writers and poets were asked to teach creative writing, some conveyed the enterprise as a process to be explored and unfolded, not as a specific product to be reproduced. What they said made sense. I practiced their suggestions and discovered my own process of becoming a writer and a poet.

I also shared their strategies with my students facilitating them as writers. The most important takeaway was this: If you took care of the writer, the writing would take care of itself.

I enjoyed asking younger students questions to find out what they were passionate about, to help them uncover their own voice. If they said something interesting, I had them write it down, then asked them to combine their thoughts into a rough draft. I had them listen to what they had written by reading it aloud to me, to use their skills as a reader. Once involved in the process they naturally wanted to clarify their writing, to include relevant details, to edit their work. They had become intrinsically motivated writers!

Here are a few favorite writers who inspired me along the way.

What some favorite poets, writers and teachers say about writing

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Robin Lim Day — CNN Hero Returns to Fairfield, Iowa for a Hometown Hero’s Welcome

November 4, 2012

Robin Lim Day

Robin Lim Returns to Fairfield, Iowa for a Hometown Hero’s Welcome

Recent articles on 2011 CNN Hero Robin Lim appear in the October and November 2012 issues of The Iowa Source. Robin was on the October cover in a feature article, Midwives: Better Birth Outcomes, and in the November issue: Robin Lim Honored in Her Hometown.

Mayor Ed Malloy officially declared Robin Lim Day in Fairfield, Iowa on November 13, 2012. Robin is returning to Fairfield to accept the honor and give a free lecture on midwifery and her work in Indonesia Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Sondheim Center in the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center. Admission is free.

Several events will take place between November 8 to 15, 2012, starting with a free showing of the award-winning documentary film, Guerrilla Midwife, at the Fairfield Public Library. The film was made by Robin’s daughter, Deja Bernhardt, about her mother’s work.

Robin will also be giving a series of talks starting at Des Moines University in the Student Education Center Auditorium at 7 p.m. Sunday. The event at the Sondheim honoring Robin takes place Tuesday night, followed by talks on Wednesday morning at the Maharishi School, on being a hero by pursuing your dreams and passions, and evening at 7:30 p.m. on sustainable parenting, in Dalby Hall in the Argiro Student Center on the Maharishi University campus, concluding Thursday morning at Fairfield Public High School.

In addition to her work in Bali at Bumi Sehat (Healthy Mother Earth), Robin and her team helped save lives and opened a second free clinic and birthing center in Aceh, that part of Indonesia most heavily hit by the tsunami in 2004. She later used her newfound disaster-response skills to aid victims of the earthquake that leveled parts of Haiti in 2010.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the best-selling book, Eat, Pray, Love (the last part takes place in Bali), met Robin and had this to say about her: “Robin Lim is what we should strive to be—a great, abundant, generous, warm and tirelessly running faucet of humanity and grace.”

See the Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts announcement CNN Hero of the Year Robin Lim Speaks in her Hometown.

For more information on Robin Lim and her work visit Wikipedia, Bumi Sehat Foundation International, and YouTube Channel.

See Fairfield Ledger: CNN Hero Robin Lim visiting Fairfield and news coverage for Robin Lim is the 2011 CNN Hero Of The Year.


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