Teacher or Performer?

Here’s a fun fact: there’s a difference between teaching and performing.

I love doing both.  I love helping other people learn stuff that I enjoyed learning.  I also love showing off what I’ve taught myself.  But sometimes, when I’ve learned something really useful and go to teach someone else, it turns into me showing off and them learning nothing.

Because I’m a performer more than I am a teacher.

When I talk to people, it turns into a speech.  When I show someone something, I have to do it perfectly.  I always feel like I have to nail the result, even though learning is a constant struggle.

To a point, teachers are performers.  They have to know what they’re doing.  They have to be able to do everything they’re trying to teach, so that they can lead by example.  Along with that, they have to put a skill into understandable words, break it down into achievable steps, and guide others through the same journey they just completed.  It’s even more complicated than just performing.

But teachers don’t have to be perfect.

The best way to learn is to teach yourself.  A good teacher won’t guide you step-by-step to every conclusion you make— they’ll help you think in a way that allows you to figure out many different things.  It doesn’t matter, then, if the teacher knows every answer or not.  As long as the teacher can point you in the right direction, you can figure it out yourself.

To a point, performers are teachers.  If you watch someone perform successfully time and time again, you can eventually reverse-engineer their method and figure out how to replicate it.  It takes a while.  It isn’t as easy as letting them teach you.  But sometimes, people can’t teach, or just don’t.  So you figure it out yourself. (more…)

My Favorite Author

Today, I didn’t get to meet my favorite author.

Maggie Stiefvater writes some fun books.  She lives a fun life.  She’s inspired and inspiring.  For a long time, ever since I realized she had written a book that wasn’t primarily kissing, I’ve read and enjoyed and sought out her writing wherever I could.  I’ve read a lot of her books.  I’ve learned a lot from her books.  And right now, I’m only talking about her books.  Y’all can research for yourselves what else she gets up to.  She’s multi-talented— nay, she’s dedicated.  To a lot of different things.  All at once.

She’s inspiring, and has been for a long time.  That’s why, when I realized she was coming to NYC on a weekend I was free, I made a plan to go get some books signed.

At first, it sounded like a large commute and small window of fun.  You see, I have obligations.  As a freshman at a service academy, I’m a bit confined as to when I can do things.  This confines what I can do.  But, trekking out into the city for a couple hours to see the Stiefvater seemed like it could work.

Then doors began to open.  I could cut down on the commute.  I could get a little extra time to get over there and get back.  In fact— and here’s the exciting part— I might even get some books signed.  That’s better than just being in the same bookstore.  All this because I got to go home this weekend instead of just traveling from my school.

It was a great weekend.  I got a lot of fun stuff done, listened to a sister’s orchestra concert, made progress in a couple of other projects I’ll break to you later, and in general pushed my life forward a couple more baby steps.  I achieved what I had to do.  When the time came to hit up the bookstore, I was riding a wave of productivity, inspiration, and feel-goodiness.

We show up just before the event is about to start.  The bookstore is crowded.  I’m in my white dress uniform.  We can’t find the checkout line, but eventually we get there and buy a copy of The Raven King.  We get our number for the signing line.

#281. (more…)

The Future

This is not my last post.

This post is a goodbye, and an ending to three and a half years of fun.  It’s a change.  But it’s not my last post.

First of all, some stuff about me.  I’m eighteen, and soon going to college at the United States Merchant Marine Academy, which trains officers for oil tankers, container ships, bulk carriers, and anything large that floats.  Essentially, it’s a school where I learn to sail giant ships around the world.

The Academy (USMMA) is modeled after the United States Naval Academy; it has many of the facets of a military academy as a result.  One of these things is the basic training at the beginning of the first year, and the boatload of restrictions for all students.  Also, it’s a larger school than the one I’ve recently been attending.  (As a homeschooler, that applies to just about everything.)  I have some idea of what to expect from all this, but still little of one.  During my time there, I’m going to need some time to figure all of this out.

Long story short, I’m going dark.

I need four months.  I report in July, the first trimester ends in November.  Between those two deadlines, you won’t see me anywhere except in person, saluting to someone important.  That means no blog, no Twitter, no social media of any kind.  It also means no chatroom and no NaNoWriMo site.  It also means no email.

It’s very dramatic, I grant you.  I could probably survive without cutting myself off completely, but it would make everything harder.  Even these days, I occasionally try to put social media or extracurricular fun stuff ahead of school.  I think most of us do that.  At a service academy…  Yeah, I’ll let you figure that one out.

I’ve thought about this a long time, and I think it’s the best way to go: I’m going dark for four months, and at the end of that period I’ll reassess.  It could be that I have too much time on my hands, so I reinstate noveling and blogging.  (Those two are priorities.)  It could be that I’m overwhelmed, and have to simplify even more.  Whatever happens, I will tell you all.  See?  This is not my last post.  The one in November just might be.

I’m hoping it isn’t, but we’ll see.

So all that is about me.  I have to shut the door for a little while on this part of my life.  That doesn’t mean I find it easy, or that I welcome the opportunity.  This blog has been a wonderful place for me to learn and to grow, and you as readers have made that possible.  I’ve been truly terrible at keeping it fresh these past few months, especially in comments, but you all are amazing.  I don’t expect many of you to stick around for the full four months, but if you do, I hope I can get you something new to enjoy.

I haven’t been very emotional on this blog since I found my style around year 1 (that style being dusty old professor with bifocals, which isn’t very conducive to much of anything fun), but I do want to stress this: I’m sad to leave you.  I’m sad that I have to let this stagnate.  I’d love to keep doing what I’m doing for another ten years, but that won’t be possible if I’m going to grow.  Thank you for being here, and thank you for understanding what I have to do.

Obviously there are still some more questions about this.  The biggest one is: Why would I go to a restrictive service academy when I enjoy writing and apparently want a career in that field?  Obviously there’s a 5k word reason, in-depth with multiple examples.  The shortest answer, however, is this: because I can.

You might not agree with it.  You might think the only way to success, especially in the literary career, is to drive straight at it until you achieve it.  But I haven’t found that to be true.  I’ve long held that I can succeed by knowing a little about a lot of different things.  Although I seem to be very good at writing, or at music, or at sailing, all of the qualities I learn there can apply to a million other things.  Everything on this blog?  It counts toward living life, making friends, or telling stories in any medium I want.  It counts toward being productive, being happy, being receptive to other attitudes and cultures.  The things I’ve learned from this blog apply to so much more than just writing.  That’s what I hope to do with the rest of my education.

I’m not going to a school that beats me down and teaches me a single, specific skill that I’ll use until I can retire, at which point I’ll dust off my notebooks and consider writing again.  It teaches leadership.  It teaches survival.  It teaches things that most easily translate into the shipping business, but with a little work can translate to writing, to music, to anything I want.  Could I learn all of it on my own?  Of course, yes.  Over the past three and a half years, I’ve gotten really good at teaching myself things.  But if this school offers those things up front, I might as well learn from them.  If it means giving up my blog for four months, or even four years?  I can live with that.  I can absolutely live with that.

Also, sailing.  You have no idea how much I love sailing.

It’s not going to be easy.  I’m going to miss all of you.  But this is what I’ve decided, and I hope you all can live with it too.

A little more housekeeping before I go: because of the miracle of scheduling posts, the YAvengers blog will publish a post per month during my absence, written by me.  I’m going to write those in the next couple days, so I don’t know what they’re about yet, but they’re going to be fun.  I’ll do my best to stick around as Captain America over there (especially now that I have personal experience), but if I can’t keep up this blog, that blog will have to go too.  You are my priority, and I will make sure you know what’s going on.

So, farewell.  This is not my last post— I hope to return triumphantly in four months.  Thanks for bearing with me.