In the work world there are quarterly reviews in which employees do self-evaluations on how well they have performed in their jobs. Bosses also evaluate each employee’s progress. You can take this model as your opportunity to write as both boss of your writer self and yourself as the writer-employee. Here’s how:
Write a job description for the writer-employee, including job functions and hours, working conditions, perks of the writing job, vacations or days off, in-service training opportunities and anything else you think a perspective hire would need and like to know.
Now, look through a couple months worth of your writing, finished or unfinished, in journals, computer files, emails, and notebooks to refresh your memory about what you’ve been writing recently.
Next write your writer-employee’s performance self-evaluation.
- Think about the ways your job of writing has been satisfying.
- Think about the ways the job of writing has been disappointing.
- Think about goals reached and about extra effort put into the job.
- Think about consequences of your effort and what you learned about the job.
- Think about what you need to be able to become better at the job.
- Think about what you need to do the job you have described in the job description.
Then, write the job performance evaluation from the boss’ point of view.
- How well did you the writer-employee fulfill the job description of writer?
- What were the writer’s successes these past twelve weeks?
- What does the boss see as necessary for improvement in performance?
Imagine going home after a job performance review in which you’ve addressed the boss’ and the writer-employee’s thoughts. What do you do after you leave the boss’ office? Have a glass of wine and catch up on your favorite sitcom on Netflix to recover and allow yourself a rest before you process the event?
Imagine committing to a time for being ready to select a piece of unfinished writing you don’t understand how to finish. Evaluate the writing according to the points you imagine the boss and writer-employee discussed.
Since lack of detail is often the root of a writer’s problem, note places where you could have included more detail in the writing you’ve selected. Did you use words like amazing or sad when you actually had the opportunity to show what made you judge a person, situation or thing as such? A nice postman from your past may have been one who recognized you and greeted you by name or always delivered all the mail even a piece had postage due, trusting that you’d leave the money for him the next day. A sad chair might have lumps like stale donuts under faded, upholstery.
Circle words that generalize summarize or judge rather than create scenes. Make a list of details for each general, summarizing and editorializing word you can replace with details. You will remember that when you feel stuck or bored with what you are writing, you can challenge yourself to write details about what you experienced through your eyes, ears, nose, tongue or skin, “staying in the scene” and “showing instead of telling,” learning again that details help you write longer, fuller drafts that engage you and keep you going. You will feel restored as a writer knowing there is more to write.
Select another piece of unfinished writing that you have abandoned because you didn’t understand where it was going.
The author William Zinsser edited Spiritual Quests: The Art and Craft of Religious Writing. In his introduction to the anthology of writers’ contributions, Zinsser states “the act of writing is ultimately a sacrament for both writer and reader.”
The act of writing sustains the writer in his or her quest. In writing, spiritual energy seems to flow in at times and alter our perception. It almost directs the writing. This spiritual energy feels sometimes like a loss of control, but it is really an important renunciation of a certain part of the mind, Zinsser writes. That is the part of the mind that wants to control thoughts. Only when we let go of thoughts can we be free to listen to a deeper voice within. Or as I often quote fiction writer Ron Carlson, “Write. Don’t Think.”
Read the piece you selected. Do you note a “telling” and “lecturing” voice or one avoiding entering the scene?
To sort out the dull, controlling words, finish this sentence: “When I read words in sentences in which I have included preconceived thoughts my voice sounds like….” A gavel? The drip, drip of a leaky faucet? A child’s sing-songy whine? A shy student’s whisper? A driver gunning a car’s engine?
Now list five words or phrases in the writing that you feel are full of unexpected energy. To help you absorb the sound of the useful tone in your writing, imagine a location that sounds like the sound of the unexpected energy words.
- “When I read words in sentences I have written in which new energy arrives, my voice carries me like sails full of wind.”
- “When I read words in sentences I have written in which new energy arrives, I hear the lullaby my grandmother sang.”
- “When I read words in sentences I have written in which new energy arrives, I am in my room as a teen, sad and shaking my fist at the way the world hasn’t come up to standards I’d believed in.”
These descriptions will help you more fully understand the sound of your unique voice.
You might scramble the words that sound out of tone into a new order, or pick and choose words from several of these sentences until you have many new sentences.
You might write a poem whose first stanza is a list of the sentences from the piece and whose second stanza is a list of the new sentences you conceive. What do you feel in this juxtaposition?
Or you might take one of the sentences with preconceived ideas and put that idea in the mouth of a disliked teacher. Now write a note to a classmate (like the ones we used to pass around among our desks) in which you say why you dislike this teacher and what she is saying.
You can take one of the sentences with welcome energy and write an email to those words describing the energy you feel reading them.
And most of all be pleased with your job of writer.