The Wizard’s JK Rowling Transmogriphication Counterspell

Credit for this image goes to the hilarious webcomic Oglaf (www.oglaf.com). Visit, but be forewarned VERY NSFW.

Dear Reader,

Today I have found that another of my masks has hit a snag in their proverbial goals and given the success I had allowing my Wizard persona to engage with the issues Sensei was having from a different angle, I have decided to allow Writer to present his problems to Wizard in hopes that something useful shakes loose.  The following is my imagined inner dialogue between the two.

WRITER’S PROBLEM:  For the past month I have taken on the very real dream of becoming a published author.  Without getting too specific, my basic goal is to achieve a level of success and notoriety similar to J.K. Rowling.  Now, I can already feel “real” writers sneering at this, and I myself share their disdain of her mainstream success, but the more I danced around what I wanted my life as a writer to look like, the more I realized I basically wanted what she had.  I am currently working on a trilogy of young adult fiction novels which star a young gay teenager as a protagonist who goes on a wild adventure to a fantasy land and in the process saves the world.  As perhaps stereotyped as that sounds, I really feel like the story is a winner, and would be very successful if I could ever finish it.  So, all of that to say, I took a vow to finish the rough draft of this novel by Halloween, and with the due date just a day away, I am barely done with a third of the novel.  Basically, despite a lot of determination and early progress, I have hit this wall that is almost like writer’s block, where I sit down every day to write but am inevitably distracted by other concerns or just plain can’t get the words on paper.  I know very clearly what the story I want to tell is, but I keep getting caught up in how to tell it, and I guess feeling very inadequate to the task.

WRITER’S EXTERNAL OBSERVATIONS:  I notice that my external environment is very cave like.  I have a massive desk I go to, where my computer screen sits pushed back into an alcove, and the rest of the room is very cluttered with things that my roommates are in the process of unpacking.  I also have a lot of access to resources/distractions on my computer.  Often, I will sit down to write and feel the need to go looking for a certain something that I can’t quite put my finger on; either clearing my head by taking a hot bath or a long walk, or feeling the need to get inspiration by searching for artwork or watching certain television shows or movies that have the right “vibe” for what I am working on, or just plain goofing off to try and let things flow naturally.  The problem is that these things once occupied some of my writing time, and now seem to occupy it all.

WRITER’S INTERNAL OBSERVATIONS:  I notice that I ache inside when I go to write recently.  I finished a major cycle of the novel’s story about mid-month and ever since then I have noticed a sharp uptake in my comfort seeking behaviors, like watching lots and lots of television, making chocolate chip cookies at night, pleasure internet surfing for long periods.  I have also been ill about once a week since then.  I am aware that I am not staying on task, and aware that I am not honoring my commitment to myself, and this produces a sort of rebellious guilt where I feel guilty but tell myself I shouldn’t and get caught in this sort of inner-wrestling match between both sides “knowing better” than the other.  I go back and forth between the opinion that this is just simply my unique writing process and I should trust myself, and believing that if I am going to improve to the point of being a JK Rowling then I need to develop discipline.  To me, discipline begins with the mastery of self-indulgence, so you can control yourself. Continue reading

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The Wizard’s Ratio of Radical Non-Resistance

Dear Readers,

This will be the first post from me, Wizard.  I have been wearing my Sensei mask a lot recently, but there are some problems (soon to be told) which Sensei is just plain stumped on.  So I decided today to look at the same issues from the perspective of the Wizard and see what else shook loose.  What follows is a stylized internal dialogue I hosted today between two very different parts of myself

SENSEI’S PROBLEM:  In my current job, my 7th grade students are responding wonderfully to both reward and discipline, but my 8th grade students pretend I don’t even exist.  I spend most of my time in my 8th grade class periods just shouting for quiet.  I can’t even get them to a place of learning.  They hate the novel we are working through, 85% of them are failing the class, and they seem almost unionized in their resistance of authority.  They don’t want, much less seek the rewards I offer, and they could care less about the discipline.

SENSEI’S DESIRED RESULT:  The result I desire is to have the students learn the material, do well on examination, be prepared for the communication challenges life will throw at them (particularly formal or academic challenges), and that they will rekindle their own belief in themselves that they are capable of succeeding in school.

SENSEI’S OUTWARD OBSERVATIONS:  I notice that the class responds almost instantly to any “down time”.  When I give them busy work, I can get them to quiet down (though often not to work), but if there is any discussion or transition time the class dynamic slips almost immediately to a “lunch room” vibe with heavy social conversations and non-school related activities like giving each other “pen tattoos”.  Students feel they have freedom to shout out answers, to move about the room as they please, and to ignore specific simple instructions like “get out your books and turn to page 72”.  Often, when disciplined, the students response is to smile and act very happy about being called down.  They don’t seem to want to make fun of me, so much as they want me to join them as a peer.  I feel constantly as though they want me to just “hang out”, or “be cool”.  They are somewhat engaged with the material.  There are three groups of four students each, which form the social skeleton of the classroom, and these three groups are consistently disruptive.  There are many “on the fence” students who will participate if in a strong structured activity, but who will also fall into the “lunch room” moments just as easily.  There are also about seven students who are display anxiety at this non-productive behavior, who are uncomfortable displeasing authority or are very interested in learning.  These students often attempt to shush the class or otherwise self-police their peers.

SENSEI’S INWARD OBSERVATIONS:  I notice that when the classes noise level rises I feel itchy inside.  For some reason, volume level with this particular group of students, causes irritation and anxiety for me.  I am sensitive to infractions, and often focus on the trouble makers over the ones who are doing as asked.  I feel like I am on the defensive, and while I do not show outward anger, their mockery of my discipline (high fiving when they get a violation, cheering when they have to stay after class) really gets me pretty heated inside.   Continue reading