Yesterday, I had a wonderful conversation with a dear professor of mine that culminated in both of us walking away with a list of books to add to our reading lists. My list included Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys and Tananarive Due’s My Soul to Keep. Her list included Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give and Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone. The point of the conversation wasn’t to swap book titles but the addition to my reading list was a nice takeaway. Initially, I’d gone for simple conversation and to inform he of my post-graduation plans. As conversations with dear professors often do, though, the conversation turned towards our mutual interests and what she had to offer me in the way of pursuing my goals. What I’ve learned from my relationship with her, first and foremost, is the importance of having someone at my back, not only as an advocate, but also as a cheerleader and a sounding board.
This professor has been invaluable as a sounding board, though she may not know it. My relationship to my writing is a fraught one at best. I’m one of those people that likes to know where every idea ends and likes to know all the twists and turns of any potential story. Too often, if I can’t tell where an idea is going, or can’t figure out how a story ends, I don’t want it. Of course, no one would ever write if this is how all writers thought. I muddle along as best I can. A segment of my college apartment bookshelf is dedicated to notebooks filled with my ramblings about random ideas that strike me and random ideas that stick. Even more notebooks dominate my closet shelf at home. What really gets me into an idea, though, is talking about it – just rambling, theorizing, talking myself in circles, and all the other things that make the friends of writers search for the nearest exit. Sometimes, the best thing is to have someone who’s genuinely interested rather than politely smiling friends who wish you’d play video games or watch movies in your spare time.
What I noticed yesterday, along these same lines, is that this professor is so very good at noticing when I’m hyping myself up to write. She’s good at recognizing those moments when I’m on a roll, when I don’t quite have an idea but it’s coming, and I know it. She knows those moments when I’m really passionate about something and just need a push of encouragement to really set me going. Only, she isn’t one to just give me words of encouragement. She gives me sources, tasks, and titles to go research. She gives me work to do.
“Encourage a student for a day, and she’ll run out of steam; keep that student busy for a day, and she’ll find the inspiration to be busy for spring term.”
-My professor at some point, I’m sure
The point of this long blurb, if you haven’t already figured it out, is get yourself a cheerleader. Get yourself a cheerleader for the moments when your thoughts won’t translate to writing. Get yourself a cheerleader to send you off researching whatever it is your writing needs. Get yourself a cheerleader to help you shut down writer’s block. Just get yourself a cheerleader. You’ll be glad you did.