Category Archives: Law School

Not Writing Because I am a Writer: Self-Doubt as Self Story

Why, you may ask, have I not been writing posts for this blog as frequently as I once did?

When I started this blog in 2014, I wrote one post a week. Every Thursday; very disciplined.  Then once every two weeks. Now it has slipped further. My friend Caroline asked me why I am writing less often.

Because I am now a fully accredited writer, I told her. A writer who is enrolled in a Master’s degree program in Writing at a highly regarded university. And the more I write, the more I doubt myself. 

Which I think is something many women have long excelled at. Self-doubt.

I don’t think it I am alone in specializing in self-doubt.

I wrote once about visiting a law school professor during his (always “his” back then) office hours to question my grade on a final exam. I thought it was too high! Can you imagine, I suggested he’d made a mistake in giving me an “A” because I didn’t think I deserved it. The professor politely confirmed that his grade was correct and shooed me out of his office.

Some of us never learn. We think every good “grade” in whatever field we are in must be a mistake on the part of the grade-giver.

That close cousin of self-doubt, self-comparison, has also been visiting me lately. You may share the same unwelcome cousin, those thoughts that compel us to compare ourselves to others.

Though you haven’t asked, I will tell you that I have been getting (unexpectedly IMHO) excellent grades in the writing course I am taking this semester. In “Contemporary American Writers” we read both fiction and non-fiction written by a diverse group of American (duh) writers and then write Critical Response papers analyzing their work from the perspective of a writing craft technique such as character development, point of view or structure.

True Confession:  I had to google the term “Critical Response.”  It did not help when our young adult son told me that he learned how to write a Critical Response when he was in middle school. When I was in middle school, it was then called “junior high” which tells you (a) how long ago it was that I was in junior high and (b) that I never learned to write a Critical Response paper.

But I do now!  I received a very good grade on the first one I wrote. And an even better one on the second.

Does this mean I am a good writer? Or simply a person who is good at following the professors’s directions? Both? Neither? Or someone perennially plagued with self-doubt.

The doubt factor has even crept into my reading for pleasure. I am a rabid reader. The kind of person known to read the back of Kleenex boxes when nothing else is available and is desperate for the printed word.

In the greatest of ironies, now that I am learning to read like a writer, I am enjoying it less! I read a few paragraphs in a much-anticipated novel or a favorite mystery and then start to think:

  • wait, isn’t this too much back story?
  • shouldn’t there be a scene here instead of summary?
  • did the author just make a mistake in her point of view?

Sometimes I want to go back to my old self who was not consciously aware of the distinctions between “alliteration,” “anaphora” and “assonance.”

Perhaps I have also mislaid my writer’s “voice.”

At a meeting of my amazing DC women’s writers group earlier this week, my writer pals unanimously concluded that while my writing has improved (they credit the classes I’ve been taking),  I seem to have lost some of my writer’s voice.

I’m not as snarky, not as sarcastic, not as candid, not as clever. Not as much me. Perhaps because every time I sit down to write I am too damn careful to use every bit of writerly craft I’ve been learning correctly.

Too much focus on craft = loss of authentic voice?

The supportive women in my group reassured me that I will – someday – recover my original voice. That once I get beyond this “wow, look what I learned today” phase of my writing career (which is, by the way, annoying the heck out of my husband), that the craft part will come more naturally and the authentic me part of it will return.

Will I also outgrow the “self-doubt” part as well? Or will I always be that person double-checking the transcript to see if my grade is correct?

I vote for the latter. Self-doubt is not easily outgrown. Look at this way: like many women, I will always –  effortlessly – get an “A” in self-doubt.

 

 

 

 

9 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Books, Communications, Education, Female Friends, Law School, Reading, Second Careers, Women, Writing

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time! Doing One Thing That Scares You

woman thoughbubble

Submitting a proposal to give a beginning-level workshop on blogging –  quite cleverly titled “Blogging 1o1” – seemed like a good idea.

At the time.

Last summer when I emailed a suggested course outline to The Writers Center. After all, if I could learn how to start a blog on my own (with some tech help, I admit), then anyone can start a blog. And if you are self-taught, then surely you can teach others?

Or as Eleanor Roosevelt (one of my personal heroes) once said:

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Beginning on Tuesday, January 12th at 11:00 a.m. at The Writers Center in Bethesda, Maryland (a wonderful non-profit about 10 minutes from my house that offers hundreds of writing workshops), I will be doing one thing that scares me. Not every day. Not sure I could handle that. But on January 12. January 19. January 26. February 2. Two hours on each of four days in early 2016 when I will certainly be scared.

(Or as our 2-year-old grandson recently said before boarding a Big Plane, “I scary.” )

I know just how he feels.

My husband reminds me that when I began this Blog in May 2014 I had no clue as to what I was doing. I had taken two courses at the Writers Center, written a bunch of essays, had a few of them published. After I recovered from the shock of seeing my words in print, I decided I needed a regular venue for my writing.

And hence a Blog was born. Witty Worried and Wolf.  Chosen to sound like the name of a law firm. I practiced law for 33+ years but sadly, the name of the firm was never changed to include mine. Here was my chance to see my name in lights – albeit self-appointed.

What about the “imposter syndrome,” I wondered? The one that regularly haunts me (perhaps you too?), that makes you second-guess your own abilities and accomplishments. Even when something you do receives praise from people who are not relatives.

The imposter syndrome kicked into its highest gear when I was in my second year in law school, having unwisely chosen to take a class called “Unfair Trade”. We would learn about prohibitions on deceptive and unfair trade practices, misleading advertising and the Federal Trade Commission.  Straightforward enough subjects, I thought.

Then mid-way through that fall, the professor brought out the centerpiece of the curriculum – a ridiculously complex, much misunderstood federal law called The Robinson-Patman Act of 1936. The R-P Act was – and is, as far as I know – a rarely used antitrust statute passed in the wake of the Depression to prevent large buyers from getting better prices than buyers with lesser economic power.

Even the Supreme Court called the R-P Act  “complicated and vague”.

I felt as did the Supreme Court.  Adding to my dismay, the professor announced that 50% of our grade on the final exam in “Unfair Trade” would be based on questions relating to the R-P Act.

I was doomed.

Imagine my surprise, when a few weeks into January, our final exam grades were posted, and I saw that I had received a 94 in Unfair Trade.  An “A”! Must be a mistake.

Such was my disbelief that I made an appointment to see the professor during office hours. I recall walking in, sitting down in the chair across from his desk and he asked:

“Miss Wolf, what can I do for you?”

“Ummm, I took Unfair Trade this fall? I just got my grade? And I received an A? I don’t understand?”

(note my early use of female upspeak)

The professor looked at me – this time the disbelief was his.

“Miss Wolf, are you asking me to change your grade? To lower it?”

Two seconds of reflection, then.

“Sorry, Professor, I shouldn’t have come. Thank you for seeing me.”

 

And I hastily retreated from his office.

Since then, I am pleased to report my self-confidence trajectory has improved. I did graduate from law school. I did practice law. I did become a partner. I did have clients who thought highly of my legal abilities. Over the years I repeated these words as a mantra whenever the imposter syndrome threatened to overcome me.

Back to Eleanor Roosevelt. And the one scary thing.

Blogging was scary for me – at first. Writing posts came easily enough, but putting my own words out there into the marketplace of ideas for public examination – what could be more frightening?

I also quiver each time I’m forced to learn the tech stuff that goes along with blogging. What, I asked, when I first got started – are plug-ins, SEO and widgets?

After 20 months of blogging, I know just enough about plug-ins, SEO and widgets to explain what they are; happily leaving it to others who wish to plumb the inner depths of fascinating blog tech tips.

I am much more interested in the words, in helping the participants who sign up for the workshop find their own audiences, craft posts that resonate with them and put them out there for public viewing.

And yes, last week I called the Writers Center to ask if anyone has signed up to take my workshop, always in self-doubt, perhaps secretly hoping that the workshop would be cancelled for lack of interest.

But 12 brave souls will join me, all may be saying as they enter the room at the Writers Center – “I scary” – – – me, too!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under 1st Grandchild, Baby Boomers, Blogging, Communications, Law firm life, Law School, Lawyers, Midlife, Second Careers, Social Media, Women, Writing