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Don’t Be Perfect

Ernest Hemmingway had a personal policy of sitting down every day to write. He also had a habit of drinking too much, but it didn’t matter how hung over he was, he always sat down to write. He also stopped writing when he knew what he would write next. If he didn’t stop then, he knew he would have a hard time writing the next morning.

Without this habit, I highly doubt that Hem’ would have been the writer that he was, canonized in American Literature.

Students, too, sit down to write (nearly) every day. It’s interesting that this is an oft overlooked aspect of what it means to be a student. It is unsurprising that I write every day as an English major, but for most students, writing is a daily chore out of necessity… at least through High-School.

Not only do students write because they have assignments to get done, but students write because those assignments make them better writers. They write because by posing for a moment as a writer, that skill is strengthened, reinforced, and they grow because of it. This process is described in the book, Pose, Wobble, Flowby Antero Garcia and my CO301D Prof, the one and only Cindy O’Donnell-Allen.

The basic idea is one that we are all familiar with: that in order to get better at something, you have to try it. We usually call this practicing. And when we practice, usually that involves some sort of uncertainty, or challenge, or wobble, that we must work through. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect, and that’s the idea. That after assuming a pose, wobbling through it, one might overcome that wobble and assume the “flow.”

An idea that is posed (ha!) in Pose, Wobble, Flow, is the idea that equity in English Education is unachievable without the teacher posing as a writer. Without having gone into the depths of this idea, I find it compelling. This morning as we talked about posing, and specifically the places we wobble, our class came together to talk about the places we wobble. We took note of where we had common wobbles. This solidarity, this community, meant that we had a lot of things in common and could support one another through our wobbles. We were (are) allowed to grow together, as we struggle through our wobbles.

I imagine this is what that equity looks like in the classroom. Mind you, teachers have a whole lot on their plate. However, by assuming the pose as a writer, a teacher joins in solidarity, in community with their students. In that sort of community it allows students to see their teacher in a position where, I imagine, they might wobble.

As we talk in class, many of my fellow students are describing times when we were discouraged by only seeing these, “polished, finished products,”and didn’t see the daily struggle that goes into writing.

Hemingway sat down at his typewriter every day. I imagine that some days he couldn’t get the words out, couldn’t get started, didn’t know where he was going. We all wobble at times. By admitting to that, and engaging in it, we are able to grow and be more successful. In the words of John Steinbeck, “Now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.

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About the Author

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I am Charlie Eich. I am a student, friend, and occasionally, a writer. Native to the great state of Colorado. This site is where you will find any and all words of mine. Whether they be a short story, poem, or simply thoughts, these are the things I found worthy of the world wide web. Enjoy.


  1. Pops

    Seems like I heard a Christian author use that line. On the other hand, I heard Hemingway once said, “I drink to make other people more interesting.”

  2. Charlie, while reading this I found myself wondering if you think the writing we do as students is interchangeable with the way Hemingway viewed writing? Do our essays, blog posts, tweets, literary analyses, and notes count as writing? I’m not questioning to belittle, you or me, or any student, I just wonder if working on school work every day is enough practice to truly develop as a writer. When there are so many other writing platforms (and genres) that I find myself gravitating towards, I tend to relinquish my yearning for writing when school work related. I’m learning to find the balance between the two, so, thanks for the relatable, thought-provoking post.

  3. Thanks for the response Kendall! I guess I would say it depends, but generally speaking the writing we do for school is not the same. It depends on what kind of writer YOU are and want to be. If you want to be a twitter phenomenon, then sure, our tweets would count. But, in the context of Pose, Wobble, Flow, I think that sitting down to write daily, means sitting down to write what it is that you (or I) have chosen to write. It’s the work of writing. Whereas when we write for class, to me it is being a student, not a writer. The exception would be if you’re stoked about writing poetry and happen to be writing a poem for class. Then, I guess, that would count. Does that make sense?

  4. Charlie – first, I love your writing style. This post, along with the others I read, make the topic interesting and informative and always suck me in from the first line. Nice job!
    I like how you talked about Hemingway writing every day. I think this is a very important point to make because it proves that even the greats aren’t perfect. Hemingway likely wobbled through his daily writings, trying to perfect an art that cannot be completely perfected. The way avid readers and English majors look at Hemingway is similar to how students look at their teachers. As an English major and a reader, I see Hemingway as an exemplary model of what a writer should be and accomplish, and as a student, I see my teachers as exemplary models and experts of the topic at hand. But, like Hemingway, our teachers must wobble too to become better.
    As a teacher it is important to realize that you’re allowed to grow; in fact, you need to grow. Writing every day, like Hemingway, can be how you improve, but I think a teacher can “write every day in their own way”. Maybe it’s taking notes after classes on what to improve on or asking for student feedback. Finding a way to improve every single day is a grand task, and there will be some wobbling, but in the end you might be just as great as Hemingway.

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  6. I relate so hard to this. I wake up most days of the week with a great idea for my writing. Although, by the time I am able to sit down and really dig into that idea, I have lost it. The struggle of being a full-time student and with a multitude of other facets of life, might just drive me to drink. Thanks for your words home-slice. Always killing it.

  7. Pingback: “Shut up and get on with it.” | CHARLIE EICH

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