I was a classroom teacher for a long time. The job tends to weed out drones almost instantaneously; something about the daily weeping and constant despair of the first years tends to discourage people who are in it for the salary. My husband kept saying for decades, “Surely this should be getting easier?” I would glare at him. Sometimes, in February, I would drift past colleague’s classrooms after the children were gone for the day, look in, and see them, pale and grim, staring down at papers or computers, or talking to parents on the phone.
Teachers have high expectations for themselves, and the rest of the world does too. The image of the teaching saint persists in society, as does the idea of the drone, and neither one is true. I got through decades of teaching by concentrating on showing up for my students and myself, and by celebrating the small differences I made to them. I kept my expectations low enough to make them achievable, and because of that, I was able to keep teaching. I didn’t burn out. I’m not saying I gave up. I’m saying I set the bar a little lower than perfection.
And I celebrated my little successes, and took little credit for the big ones. For instance, the mother of one of my students told me he got into Juillard because I got him interested in theater in sixth grade. I’ll take a tiny bit of credit for that. But mostly his achievements came about because he and his mother are awesome, not because of me.
What I’m saying is that if you lower your expectations ever so slightly, it’s so much easier to keep showing up. So much easier to try to make a small difference instead of shooting for the utter transformation. Then you can celebrate when things go right.
People also have high expectations for writers that also don’t reflect reality. Media reports of author contracts tend to reinforce the glittering image of what publication means, and the layers upon layers of gatekeeping that have risen up around official publishers have intensified those images. But most published authors do not sell well, let alone well enough to make a living at it. I know that. I have lowered my expectations. My plan was to put the books online and make them available.
So I am over the moon right now. I have sold 31 copies of my books since The Stick Princess went live. OVER THE MOON.