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Being A TryHard In An Era of FailBetters

I am a tryhard. A tryhard wants to fit in and stand out at the same time–to be noticed but not remembered. Being a tryhard can be exhausting and sometimes leads to serious regret. (See my class picture circa 1990, which I of course will not let you see. Please know that I have awoken to the brute truth that curly hair resists the bang.)

A tryhard does things slightly off-color enough –crazy-print tights!–but not too wild too stick–tattoo on my ankle…it’s washable!

I know I am a tryhard because my children told me so and then I worked hard at being good at that. When they told about my new identity, I laughed. “Yeeesss! So true” I nodded. Then I looked up tryhard. Now I am writing about being a tryhard (or am I analyzing why these half-formed minds think I am a tryhard?). Surely you’re convinced now.

Today, someone kind and smart, a fellow-educator with bang-appropriate hair, told me she read and shared one of my blogposts. At first, I tried hard not to look like I was trying hard not to be touched. But then I reread said post and figured something out: being a tryhard makes middle school and middle age exceptionally challenging. But it may make writing right.

Being a failure is in. We hear often–from self-help books to business manuals–that the secret to success is learning how to fail better. It’s not enough to accept mistake. We must embody it as a critical part of the process. No failure, no next find.

I am a writing teacher. So I’m all in with this new attention to error as inevitable, interesting, even generative.

But too much focus on potential benefits of failure can make us forget that the only way to get anywhere is being open to the process, to tryhard.

Writing isn’t really about mistake or mastery.  It’s about working to reach others, it’s about revision. We try hard to know if, and how, our words are working in others’ minds. And because we change and evolve, because we grow out our hair, we need to do this over and over again until we get it right.  For now.

About Jessica Yood

I am an Associate Professor of English at Lehman College, The City University of New York (CUNY). Composition and Rhetoric is my primary field and research into the history and emerging role of writing in our contemporary culture continues to broaden my definition of this discipline. Work for my book project takes me into the history of literary criticism in America, complexity theories, the culture wars and the intellectual crises of the 1990s, and the enduring complexity of first-year writing and writers.
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