As I mused about my first post for this brand-spanking New Year, I thought of my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Smeltzer. Mrs. Smeltzer was old school in every way, and as tough as nails when it came to helping us live up to our potential. She walked to school every day, regardless of the weather- and in Michigan, that’s quite a badge of honor. We learned handwriting with fountain pens. If you blobbed ink on your middle finger, she knew you weren’t holding your pen correctly. She rewarded success, pointed out failure and gave each student a way to do better and achieve more. She read aloud each day after lunch, and introduced me to Laura Ingalls Wilder, Sterling North, James Whitcomb Riley and many other amazing authors that I still read today. She loved poetry, politeness, accuracy and creativity and I loved her for it.
“It’s water under the bridge!” was Mrs. Smeltzer’s favorite saying.
When we took her famous timed math facts tests, and one or two students tried to write the problems down and finish them before she called time instead of memorize the answer, she’d say, “Pass your papers forward. It’s water under the bridge!” When anyone got less than a favorable mark on a writing or reading assignment and asked for another chance or for some extra credit she’d crow again, “It’s water under the bridge!”
The bell where this saying was concerned finally went off in my head years later in college. I was used to getting good grades without working hard, and when I got my first “F” on a test I heard Mrs. Smeltzer’s voice, “It’s water under the bridge!” And what it meant was, “You blew it. You should have worked harder. It’s no one’s fault but your own. Next time, do better because you can!”
Is there anything in your writing life that needs to become “water under the bridge?” How about that one story you just can’t get right, or the response from that longed-for agent you’ve been waiting to hear from for more than three months. “If I just give them one more day, things will be different!”
Maybe your “water under the bridge” is wondering whether or not you’ll ever make it in this business! But what does “make it” look like anyway? Who else can judge your success but you? Are you writing every day? Are you a better writer than you were last year? Are you meeting with your critique group or partner and making hard changes based on the comments you read? Have you set reasonable and reachable goals for yourself? Are you creating something of value that brings beauty to this world? Then you are a writer my friend, and a successful one!
Let all that self-doubt and loathing be your “water under the bridge” this year. I’m putting mine in a big old basket and sending it down the river- once again- as I write this. If I don’t, I’ll never move forward, and I know Mrs. Smeltzer would not approve- not for a minute. And that’s enough to keep me going- for today anyway…
Happy New Year, and as always, happy writing!
Sensibility- You are a writer! Say that five times out loud before writing today.
Sense- After saying the above, get back to work. It’s the only way to move forward in writing and in life.
What needs to be your “water under the bridge” this year?