Sometimes you have to tear yourself down, too

Hayley and I have been running story meetings/ workshops for first-years writing for The Projector. We started off these meetings taking examples from the previous week’s paper and discussing them: how to improve leads, how to properly use CP style, and all of the handy tips we’ve picked up in our experience both as writers and editors.

Though we make an effort to always stay encouraging – reminding them that their stories aren’t bad; they just need a few improvements, there were quite a few complaints that we were “tearing apart their work.”  They didn’t seem  too happy with the way we were running our meetings.

I think we might have hurt a few feelings.

So, this week we decided to switch things up. Each of us found stories that we’d written – Hayley’s from when she started out at the Selkirk Journal when she was 19, and mine, one of the first stories I wrote for The Projector last year. We let the first-year’s pick apart our stories: what they thought about the leads, and things they noticed about them that could be improved. We didn’t tell them who wrote the stories.

They went to town.

“This lead’s too long.” ” That paragraph is an entire sentence, where’s the periods?” “The real story is buried halfway down the page.”

At the end of the workshop Hayley and I  looked each other and started to laugh.

“Hey guys, guess what? These were some of the first stories we ever wrote for a newspaper.”

The first-years looked at us, shocked.

“But you guys are the editors-in-chief.”

That made me laugh. It was only a year ago that I was in their very same shoes – and I’m still a long, long way away from perfect. In fact, I know I’ve still got a lot left to learn.

We had a few students come up to us after the meeting and thank us for sharing our own work.

“It doesn’t make me feel so bad about mine,” one student said.

Looking back at my story I realized how much I have learned in the past year – and how far I’ve come since the first story meetings I attended last September.

“The only way you’re going to improve is by practicing. Keep writing. Keep coming to meetings. Keep asking for feedback on your stories. Talk to us, talk to your instructors. Use your Caps & Spelling.”

I said that to a student today when they came to ask advice on how to improve their writing.

I know it’s how I’ve improved.

(And no, I’m not posting the story … the long-winded lead, run-on sentences, and buried story are best left off the internet.)

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