Writing Mentors and the Passing Down of Failure

One thought on “Writing Mentors and the Passing Down of Failure”

  1. At the time she said it, I didn’t quite know what she meant. “Don’t give away your power,” my mentor said to me when I gave her (what I thought of was the reason, not an excuse) for why I didn’t think my work was up to standard. “You do understand that now I’ll read it with that lens,” she said.

    At the time, it struck me as a little odd. On one level I could understand. On another, I deeply resented it because it seemed as though she was telling me to be inauthentic, fake, to cop an overly confident attitude. “Maybe if I don’t tell her my work isn’t up to standard, she won’t see that it isn’t!” Ugghh.

    I now find that I understand “don’t give away your power” quite differently, and I also tell my women students all the time. Many of them are conditioned to put others’ needs and goals before their own. Many of them are also conditioned to make big “doe eyes” at me and hope that I will take their excuses into consideration. Even though these women are highly capable and have to juggle many things just in order to be in the classroom, they end up sabotaging themselves and then want me to be okay with it.

    I’m not. It isn’t that failure isn’t good or mistakes aren’t acceptable. They are inevitable, they are learning experiences, they are some of what shapes us the most.

    I guess what these students don’t know is that if someone is apparently working very hard, I always give her or him the benefit of the doubt, but I don’t want her to tell me that she couldn’t make the time to do the work right–not because she had to do other things, not because I expect perfection–but because she isn’t being true to herself.

    I’m not articulating this exactly as I want to–it’s a “failed writing comment draft #1,” but I know that I want to think about this more, and that your post on Will set the little synapses firing in my brain this morning. Maybe it all ties into that self-respect essay Didion talks about.

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