First day of classes but have to write. It’s the only way I can cope. But I have to give my primary attention to my students. They have to come first today. So I will just take a little break and share this terrific blog post by Jeff Goins, author of five books, including The Art of Work and Real Artists Don’t Starve. Funny that this article would come from one who writes mainly about the business of writing.
That’s what makes it so great.
Here are some highlights from “The Essential Sadness of Art”:
“We want broken and beautiful, real and raw. Sure, we want abundant life, but we know it comes at a cost. And when you don’t illustrate that cost well — with sacrifice and toil — we don’t believe the story.”
“What a beautiful mess this life is. Beautiful and broken and begging to be redeemed. And for those who are listening, this is a truth that resonates.”
My students like to laugh, and we did today, but the vast majority of them have not signed up for one of my English composition classes expecting or wanting fun and games. They want to learn how to write well, or at least well enough to get the grade or the skills they need to move on to the next class.
Some of them, during the moment, might be glad if I spent the time joking around, playing games, giving “fun,” undemanding assignments, but when they moved on to the next class, they would no doubt resent the heck out of me, and rightly so, when they realized they wasted their time and money on entertainment. Writing is difficult work and effective writing can be disturbing and uncomfortable, dredging up old hurts or even creating new ones.
Writing, even expository writing, can be a very intimate, personal experience. It is often hard to get poor grades on writing assignments. No matter what the professor says about not taking grades personally, it’s hard not to. I know. I have had enough editors, agents, and fellow writers tell me not to take rejections personally, but I can’t help it. Nothing can stop the sting of rejection. It hurts.
But the goal of life is not to avoid hurt. It’s masochism, of course, to seek the hurt, but it is courage to attempt difficult things that may very well result in pain and failure that we then have the privilege to struggle through and become victorious over.
Because then we will grow.
So I will ask my students to read sad and disturbing essays and stories. I will assign them difficult tasks to complete that may cause some of them distress. I will confront them when called for and discipline them when necessary–to help them learn and grow as students and people.
I will seek to break out of my own comfort zone, go into the dark places–for the sake of knowledge and truth, even if it causes momentary pain.
In the end, we will laugh out loud and know what it means to be truly happy.
“2 My brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4 and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” –James 1:2-4 (NRSV)