13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

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Thought Catalog

Mentally strong people have healthy habits. They manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that set them up for success in life. Check out these things that mentally strong people don’t do so that you too can become more mentally strong.

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1. They Don’t Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves

Mentally strong people don’t sit around feeling sorry about their circumstances or how others have treated them. Instead, they take responsibility for their role in life and understand that life isn’t always easy or fair.

2. They Don’t Give Away Their Power

They don’t allow others to control them, and they don’t give someone else power over them. They don’t say things like, “My boss makes me feel bad,” because they understand that they are in control over their own emotions and they have a choice in how they respond.

3. They Don’t…

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Observation Practicum

I feel like I’ve been cheating. As I laid out in parts One and Two of “So I Went to a Tutoring Session,” the circumstances of my practical applications were way too ideal for any real learning to take place. Not that the experiences weren’t good exercises to apply the theories of “student-centered learning” and “teaching the writer not the writing” that our course reading assignments advocate. It’s just that everyone involved were over-anticipating the outcomes.

We had all read the same essays on tutoring and teaching writing—the tutor followed their advice to the letter and the tutees (myself and my classmate) could predict nearly every correction and suggestion she made. We discovered a few tidbits about ourselves as writers along the way and were able to correct some previously overlooked mistakes, but the lack of challenge led to a lack of satisfaction. It felt as if we’d found out that our friends were throwing us a surprise birthday party, but we had to play it off like we didn’t know—we were lacking a little Wow Factor.

I didn’t get any “I’m actually seeing this new knowledge play out right in front of me” feeling. I didn’t get the “I just learned something!” factor that I was expecting.

That is, not until a spontaneous, unofficial tutoring opportunity fell into my lap.

–+–

In the first class of the semester, during a discussion about personal tutoring experiences, I brought up a story about helping my brother with his senior thesis. All my other tutoring and group writing sessions fell in line with the common tutoring experience: we focused on lower order concerns both because we were too afraid of stepping on the writer’s toes to point anything else out, and because we didn’t trust in our own revision skills. My experience went a bit differently.

My brother has difficulty bringing his arguments straight to the page; he’s great at debating with other people, but as soon as he has to sit down at a computer and type, everything seems to leak out of his brain.

So, in order to keep my mom from yelling at him about idle hands and the sin of laziness, I decided to help him out. I sat down at his computer with his document open and asked him to explain to me what he was trying to say. He talked, I typed, and we got through a couple paragraphs pretty smoothly. Without having read any of Kenneth Bruffee’s theory on social construction, Lisa Ede’s essay on collaboration, or Donald A. McAndrew’s guide to tutoring writing, I’d managed to pull off a student-centered tutoring experience.

Now, after having officially studied techniques of tutoring, I can say with confidence that I think the best approach to tutoring is spending extensive time in the development stage of a paper talking it out with another human being…before even sitting down to the isolated act of writing.

My personal experiences working and studying in the film industry add fuel to that belief. Producing professors can’t emphasize enough the importance of the development stage of a project. The Producer’s Business Handbook spends a whole chapter on the funding and planning and strategies of development, marking it as one of the most crucial aspects to creating a solid story and successful motion picture.

The writing process is no different. By spending time discussing ideas, writers have the chance to formulate, in their primary mode of communication, what their argument will be and what points are most vital. This development stage should happen without putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard; it should allow for social construction to better shape the writer’s ideas and method of persuasion.

I would go so far as to say tutors should employ dictation as an important teaching tool for tutees that struggle with bringing their ideas into written form.

Both of the writers who I’ve helped via the dictation method find that hearing their words better helps them craft their arguments and organize their thoughts in a cohesive structure. Working with them in this manner brought my mind back to our first ENG 481 reading assignment of the semester by Walter J. Ong, which stressed the inextricable connection between our primary use of oral language and our dependent written language. For these writers, building with the written word confused the flow of their primary language to the point where a fluency of ideas and argument was nearly impossible.

Understanding the importance of the development stages of any writing process wouldn’t have been such a Wow Factor Moment for me if professors gave as much weight to the process as they did to the product. As aspiring tutors and teachers (and maybe story developers in film and TV), it is imperative that we continue to give development the attention it deserves, because there’s no doubt that products come out of the writing process more complex and well-crafted when the writer remains patient and uses his voice throughout the entire journey.

So I Went to a Tutoring Session: Part Two

I chose to bring in a short GE essay on rewriting gender norms for my tutoring session—a fundamentally different piece of work than the kind my fellow classmate brought in to discuss. I had a five-page analytical paper that was handed in to one professor via hard copy. He had a personal narrative that was posted on a public blog site.

The notes I received on previous essays for this professor were all lower order concerns (grammar, punctuation, contraction use), although I knew there were a few higher order concerns I needed to address. I assumed, then, that I wouldn’t have many HOCs to address in this second paper.

As soon as I sat down and had to answer the question, “So what issues do you think you need to fix with this paper?” I realized that there were organizational issues I had problems with; I just hadn’t given it much thought. I’d treated this paper like I do all my GE assignments: I know the professors just want to check that I’ve read the textbook, so as long as I slap in some terms and concepts from the reading and relate them accurately to the prompt I’ll get a passing grade, no matter how much attention I pay to creatively crafting my words. That instantly makes me less invested in the paper and makes the assignment feel like fluff work. I spend an afternoon banging the paper out and I turn it in without any revision or rereading.

So, naturally, I was extremely reluctant to read the work out loud to my tutor and the two peer observers sitting in for our session. I would much rather have preferred not to look at this paper ever again, but, of course, that’s not the writing tutor way.

I did as asked and read the paper aloud. And it was instantly clear to me where my issues were—I went full film kid. The assignment asked for a breakdown of a contemporary pop culture artifact in terms of gender communication and then a potential rewrite of the artifact with gender equality in mind. I chose a recent film, and linked the importance of its gender characterization to a century-long history of feminism in Disney princess movies.

I bit off a bit more than I could chew; reading through the paper, I realized that I let my excitement for feminism in movies get away from me. I spent way too long detailing the history of Disney princess character construction and delved way too deep into the three act structure flaws in their latest film. Conversely, I barely spent any time pointing out the sexist elements—they seemed totally obvious to me—and arrived at my main argument halfway through the essay. If I’d just read through the paper once on my own I probably would have been able to target and fix these problems—compressing the details and more explicitly drawing out terms of gender communication.

 

I don’t know if my tutor felt as rewarded as me after our session, but she should have because she might have accomplished the true goal of writing center tutors: fixing the writer instead of the writing. Maybe, the next time I have to write a paper I have little interest in, I’ll actually read it over before handing it in!

So I Went to a Tutoring Session: Part One

I walked into Demille Hall on a Thursday afternoon full of fake confidence—of course I know where the Writing Center is, of course I have a paper ready for critique, and of course this will be a breeze! I did not, in fact, have any current piece of writing needing review, nor had I ever been to the Writing Center before, but that didn’t stop me from wandering around the dark, cramped labyrinth of Demille Hall—home of the Language department, Honors Society, and the Writing, Tutoring & Learning Center. These three departments jostle for space in a tiny one-story building crammed between Memorial Lawn and the beautiful, big Business building.

I found the Tutoring & Learning Center just fine, not only because there were signs with arrows on the walls pointing me in the right direction. The TLC receptionist couldn’t quite understand why I was so confused by her answer to what I thought was a legitimate question:

“So, um…I have an appointment with the writing center for 1 o’clock…?”

Her response:

“You know where the tutoring center is?” I nod. “It’s all the way in the back.”

Now, let me clarify: “tutoring center” refers to the windowless classroom around the corner crammed with cubicles. I’d already made a short circuit of said room. By “all the way in the back” I assumed I’d find a doorway to maybe a smaller classroom set aside for writing tutoring.

I assumed erroneously.

When my assigned tutor showed up, she led myself and the classmate who I’d paired up with for this experiential course assignment, literally, all the way to the back of the tutoring “center” to two cubicles in the corner that boasted a piece of computer paper taped to the shelf. It read:

“THESE CUBICLES RESERVED FOR WRITING CENTER TUTORS.”

Oh, I thought, so this is how it is.

 

Now that you have an idea of what kind of setup Chapman offers students looking for writing assistance, I’ll dive into my observations of a tutoring experience.

 

My fellow classmate brought in a personal non-fiction piece about his writing inspirations and individual creative process. (His version of my literacy narrative.) I was all ready to study the tutor’s technique critically, with our theoretical readings hovering in the back of my mind. She did all the right things:

1)       allow the student to talk first about what he thinks are issues with the paper, what he wants help on, what his goals were with the paper

2)      have him read the paper out loud

3)      ask questions, instead of diving in with edits or correction

4)      get the student to realize what changes were needed instead of spoon-feeding

 

Real A+ work, Tutor. It was clear that the tutee knew what needed to be done, but benefited greatly from the simple task of talking about his next steps with the tutor. That’s not to say that no assistance in the form of actual review was given by the tutor, but those corrections acted to reinforce realizations previously made by the student. It seemed like the perfect tutoring session experience–higher order concerns were addressed, the student incorporated the professor’s thoughtful notes into his rewrite, and left the session with a more focused, organized, and cohesive paper.

By the end of their session, I had mentally picked out a piece of writing for review–a five-page paper on gender communication and stereotypes in a pop culture–but I assumed my tutoring session would be much different. My professor was not of the writing department mentality. Her corrections on my assignment were purely mechanical, and I knew that if I wanted a perfect grade on the next assignment I would need to focus more on lower order concerns and format issues than anything else.

Again, I assumed incorrectly.

Creative Collaboration in Student Writing

In my last post update, I proposed my search for true collaborative writing between students at the university level. To be honest, my expectations were low prior to sitting in on my screenwriting roommate’s script workshop. But I am happy to report that I’ve found it! I’ve found students who are actually willing to, and capable of, sharing in all of the writing process: pre-writing, writing, and revising.

My roommate has collaborated with directors before—this was not her first rodeo. From all the stories of her previous partnership, I cobbled together a prejudice about writer-director relationships: the director takes the reigns on much of the storyline construction and characterization and the screenwriting takes control of the physical act of writing. In this setup, directors act as pre-writing supervisors, revisers, and editors, with the screenwriter doing the detailed legwork and maintaining a feeling of authorship. It seems like a decent enough division of labor on paper—the director directs the “vision,” as we like to call it, and the screenwriter writes. Duh.

But there is a problem. The title of screenwriter holds less power and importance in this relationship, because much of the creative brainchild comes from the director while the mechanics are left up to the writer, unless the writer actively pushes for greater involvement and unless their personal relationship allows for the writer to have a say. The problem then sleeps quiet until the issue of copyright and on-screen credit rears its ugly head.

The screenplay was a collaborative effort, yes, but not an equal one. Both parties don’t deserve co-writing credits, so the director often adopts a “story by” or “created by” credit and leaves the “written by” credit for the screenwriter, again keeping the more respected (and better paid) credit for her- or himself while the writer gets shafted.

So when I entered the room last weekend to sit in on my first writer-director workshop, I was primed for disappointment and disapproval. Instead, I discovered the magical unicorn of collaborative relationships.

This was the third meeting in their writing process; they had a shared understanding of the tone, plot points, characters, and message and the director had written the first draft of the script. My roommate, the writer, read the draft and the notes written by the director’s classmates in his thesis workshop course and gave her opinion about their opinions. Then they discussed elements of the draft that they liked, disliked, were unsure of, and so forth. Before breaking, they laid out the rules of the universe and cemented character backstories so they could ensure their story would be rooted in some sort of credibly constructed context. My roommate then prepared to take the draft and write her own, incorporating the best elements, notes, and ideas discussed in their meeting.

Let me repeat: the director wrote a draft, handed it over to the writer, and asked her to write her own version. Upon reconvening the next week, they would have a new script with new notes from the workshop course and be able to continue developing the best possible script version.

I have never in my life met a director so willing to allow his brainchild and his creative writing to be totally gutted by someone else. I have never seen a director at Dodge trust another screenwriter at Dodge and be so open to critique and advice.

Maybe I’ve been missing out on a whole new world of wonderful writing relationships that fly under the radar here at Chapman. Or maybe I just happened to stumble upon something rare and unique. Or…maybe most people don’t collaborate in this way because it’s impossible and the end result will devolve into a confused mish-mash of two different brainchildren.

Stay tuned for more updates, because this phenomenon is worth keeping track of.