By Susan A.J. Lyttek
I chose to write this blog post because today is my birthday. Receiving gifts is fine, but I tend to get a lot more out of giving and sharing.
It’s the same with writing. Don’t get me wrong, I would love for one of my books to become a best seller or to touch people through the ages. But it’s even more important to me to pass on what I learn to others. As much as I would appreciate me own work doing well, it would tickle me to no end should one of my students eclipse my efforts.
So how do we pass on the gift? How do we create more storytellers to fill the world with tales that touch the world for Jesus?
- Don’t hold back. Sometimes it’s tempting to take something I’ve learned and monopolize it for my betterment. However, if I pass it on to my students, not only does the technique or tidbit help them, but I find that I understand it better. Also, even though I think I might make use of the knowledge, sometimes the information is a better fit for one or more of my students than it is for me. And I would never learn that if I didn’t share it.
- Be honest. Since I teach teenagers primarily, it’s easy to make myself out to be not only a knowledgeable teacher, which is fine, but an infallible expert, which is not. Not only is the latter discouraging to the budding writer, it’s untrue. Often, so often, they understand their own market and is innately good writing without my having to tell them. If I get egotistical in front of them, they are less likely to listen and learn.
- Be encouraging. When they learn how to criticize each other’s work, I teach them the peanut butter and jelly sandwich method—which is what I use on them week to week, whether they realize it or not. First off, you start with something that you thought was done well. This represents the first slice of bread. Then, with all gentleness, address the skill or passage that needs work. This is the peanut butter. What might help the weak area? Is there a way to fix it that you might recommend? This sweetening of the criticism is the jelly. Finally, add on another slice of bread—something else that you enjoyed or that was executed with skill. This combination makes learning about mistakes both productive and nourishing.
- Be receptive. The stories my students create may be ones that I would never read. They might have technical issues or perhaps are simply in a genre or style that I wouldn’t choose. It’s tempting to rewrite what they have composed in my own image. But that would do them no favors in the long run. Instead, I need to find their voice in the midst of what they have written and build that up. Only then might their stories touch the world one day.
Today, as I celebrate my birthday, I’ll be preparing the week’s lessons, too. I hope that by doing so, I’ll give back the abundance that I continually receive. And maybe, just maybe, one of my students will go on to amaze me.
Susan A. J. Lyttek, author of four novels, award-winning writer, blogger, wife and mother to two homeschool graduates, writes in time snippets and in colorful notebooks. She also enjoys training up the next generation of writers by coaching 6th to 12th grade homeschool students.