A teacher from my alma mater asked me if I’d write a letter to her class championing the revision/peer review process…
Here’s the deal: right now, you have it made. You have what every writer in the world has ever dreamed of–a Captive Audience. Your teacher gets paid to read your writing, and your classmates pay to read your writing. You might think they’re idiots, you might think they wouldn’t know a good story if it bit them in the ass, but at least you have their attention. Attention is what we all crave.
There are two things that will keep you from becoming a good writer and a good human being: Fear and Laziness. Both will cripple and maim any shot you have at achieving your potential. A writer who doesn’t believe in revision and peer review is either afraid that she’s no good, afraid that other people will think she’s no good, or just too plain lazy to care. Regardless, she’s getting no place fast.
Look. We grew up being told that we were special. Our parents put us in Gifted Programs, Karate Lessons, Summer Camps, Honors English, on and on and on. They gave us trophies for participation. They bragged about us by the water cooler. Any crap we scribbled out with crayons, they stuck it up on the fridge.
Our parents doted over us like we were golden eggs sent from the gods.
What a disservice they’ve done us! Do you know how easy it is to make a baby? Have you considered the infinite size of the universe? We’re not special…we’re lucky to be here.
So you’ve got some Talent. Big deal. Lots of people are Talented. They don’t hand out free lunches for Talent. Success in life and in writing is about exercising that Talent with Habit and Hard Work.
Okay. I’m an unpublished short story writer who works in a library. I’ve got a desk drawer slowly filling up with rejection slips. What do I know?
All I’m saying is that it doesn’t get any easier. I don’t know what kind of stuff you’re doing in class, but I can tell you that anytime you get to sit in a cozy room and spend time talking about writing is a blessing. Sure, some of your classmates won’t get it. Some of their stupidity will make you want to tear your hair out. That’s not the point. The point is to be open, to listen to what folks have to say about your writing, separate the good for the bad, and to go on from there.
Outside of college, you’ll have to beg homeless people on the street to read your stuff. And what good will it be to them? You can’t eat a piece of writing.
Take advantage of your Captive Audience, now, while the going is good.
Be honest, be unafraid, work hard, and have fun. (And keep writing.)