Human Growth and Development was a required course for prospective teachers when I went back to school in my thirties. My sons were early teens by that time, so I used them as reference points. Ah yes, I would say to myself as I read about psycho-social development, that explains Matt to a T. And when I learned that teenagers grow from the hinter regions inward, I understood why Geoff tripped over his feet so often. They were enormous!
Here's something else I remembered learning about brain development in teenagers. It seems they have an invisible audience following them everywhere they go. The audience is not kind. They hurl insults like rotten tomatoes. Every flaw is held up for ridicule. Every step is questioned. Every word, well, every misspoken word is seared into long-term memory with a branding iron of contempt. The professor claimed this was all part of normal brain development.
In Anne Lamott's chapter--stay with me, now--"S****y First Drafts," I read about her "voices" with rapt attention. After all, my invisible audience still resides in my head, badmouthing every word I commit to the page. Either my brain hasn't developed beyond adolescence, or I've made it too comfortable for the invisible audience to stay. They show no signs of leaving soon. Or maybe, just maybe, the development specialists got it wrong. Those voices stay with us for a life-time.
Anne's too practical to send them off. Too much energy expended for that battle. No, she suggests ways to quiet them:
Close your eyes and get quiet for a minute, until the chatter starts up. Then isolate one of the voices and imagine the person speaking as a mouse. Pick it up by the tail and drop it into a mason jar...NO-O-O!!!!
Obviously, Anne never used a killing jar for an insect collection. My throat tightened just reading the words. This image did NOT quiet voices, but my heart rate when aerobic. After some experimentation, however, I discovered that a simple speech and a pat on my back was all I needed to soften the voices, something like this:
Lucky for you no one is ever going to see what you write today, Patti. You're framing an idea, something you can pretty up tomorrow or the next day. You won't write War and Peace in the time you have, but you'll write a small piece of something that has the potential to grow in beauty. Your job today is to have fun, lots and lots of fun. Now, put your heinie in the chair and start typing.
Here's your chance to address your snarky, invisible audience. Write out a speech in the comment section to quiet their voices, or comment on Anne's take of the first draft, what some of us call the sloppy copy. I confess, the myth of the author sitting down and writing flawlessly in one draft kept me from considering myself a writer for a long, long time. Oh, the wasted years. Was there anything else in this chapter that jumped out at you? We'll move onto perfectionism on the 18th, a topic I invented.