Caution: Learner Writer

As the good weather (?) approaches I’m now getting into the busy season for my other job, which I love just as much as writing, and often find just as frustrating. For those of you who don’t know, I am, for my sins, a driving instructor. Cue cries of “Oh, you must have nerves of steel!” and “You must be a really patient person!” Nerves of steel are, surprisingly, not necessary. I am trained to spot mistakes before they happen, so anything dangerous gets nipped in the bud. The second statement is accurate – yes, you have to be patient to teach driving. Long-suffering hubby would strongly dispute this, as he says I have no patience at all. That’s not true. I just don’t have any with him. It’s all used up on my pupils, so when I get home and he says or does something daft, he tends to get the short straw. Not my fault. He doesn’t pay me to be patient. (He doesn’t pay me at all, in case you get the wrong idea!)

As I’ve been busy writing and driving this week, I’ve realised that the qualities that are necessary for my day job are going to come in handy for my writing as well. Sending a pupil off for their driving test is a bit like completing a piece of writing and putting it up on my website, or mailing it off for submission. At that point, I have to LET GO. When I was first an instructor, I was as nervous as the pupil on test day, and as disappointed as they were if they didn’t pass. I came to realise that if I took every failure personally, I was soon going to lose the plot. So now I am confident that I have taught them all the necessary skills, and on their test it’s up to them. It is frustrating when a pupil (who I know can drive well) makes a serious error on their test and doesn’t pass, but I stay matter-of-fact, sympathise, take them home, and revisit what went wrong when everyone has had time to calm down and reflect.

My writing is like my pupil-on-test : at some point it has to go out there, and stand on its own two feet. If it isn’t well-received, that’s something learned for the future. Feedback can be applied to my next piece. It doesn’t mean I can’t write, just as a pupil failing their test doesn’t mean I can’t teach. Step away, Karen, calm down, and use what you’ve learned to improve things next time.

If my writing gets poor feedback or a rejection slip, I’ll just have to use the other attribute you absolutely MUST have to be a driving instructor: sense of humour. Driving pupils will do or say the silliest things, and if you can’t have a laugh about it at the appropriate moment the atmosphere can get a bit intense. Yes there are some mistakes and topics that need to be treated seriously, but as I’m trained to prevent danger before it occurs, it follows that the mistakes I do let happen are not going to damage people or property (and that includes me, my pupil and my car), so I use these errors as a teaching tool. Example: “So what could have gone better about parking the car?” “Um…that lady and her little dog nearly crossed the road just where I was going to park.” “So how could you have perhaps prevented that?” “Er – put the indicator on if there’s pedestrians about as well, not just for other cars?” “Yes! And hopefully the dog’ll be looking, even if the lady isn’t!” You get the idea…

I have a good sense of humour (if you disagree, I don’t want to hear about it – LOL) so hopefully that’ll kick in if I need it with regards to writing feedback. I don’t mean I won’t take criticism seriously, just not personally. Well, I’ll try. *sobs into a cat and eats own weight in chocolate*…sorry, don’t know what happened there…

So as a novice writer, I am reminded not to be frustrated by the mistakes of my novice driver. I am now a learner at something too. I have asked undoubtedly daft questions of the more experienced writers out there and had lots of patient help. I can do no less for my driving pupils. Now where did I put my Rescue Remedy..?


7 thoughts on “Caution: Learner Writer

  1. Very good Karen………however I can say from past 20 years you neither have any patients or a sense of humour that I have seen or can find………. I am very proud of you……and proud to be your hubby………… 😉

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