My first semester (and even second) was spent doubting myself and writing abilities. My poor advisors, Claire Rudolf-Murphy and Jane Resh-Thomas, must have spent the entire semester encouraging and boosting my esteem. No more. I’ve grown since then, and I’d like to share my gems.

#1 Don’t overwhelm yourself about perfection. Celebrate your small steps.

By day, I’m a Teaching Artist. I instruct teachers on arts-integration techniques (using drama and storytelling) to incorporate into their curriculum. One of my teachers said, “I have to be perfect. The administration will look at my lesson plans and expect perfection.” She was so tense and obviously lost some of the joy of teaching. She added, “I want to be able to teach the way you do, with your drama.” At this, I tried to remember the quote (If you know it please correct me): “Don’t insult me, it took years for me to be able to do this.” After she exhaled, I helped her to celebrate her small successes. That’s when I realized that I must do the same for myself.

#2 You might have to celebrate all by yourself.

While having your little congrats party, realize everyone won’t join you. You might have to celebrate alone. While working on a big project, there was a friend with me at the beginning of the process, but when it was time to break out the champagne–she was a no-show. I could rationalize many reasons for her lack of support, but in the end I knew that she wasn’t truly excited for me. Don’t cry for me, Argentina. That valuable lesson taught me that I must do meeven all by myself. Remember, everyone can’t climb to the mountain top with you.

#3  You’re meant to tell a story in a way that no one else can tell it.

Yes, every story has been told. It doesn’t matter because we’ve accepted the call to write and signed the student loan promissory notes to prove it. Now, we have to trust the voice within ourselves and just write. There’s only one Neil Gaiman, one Gary D. Schmidt, one Anne Ursu, one Kate DiCamillo, one Whomever. And, there’s only one YOU.

At the end of the day, I can’t continue to whine to my advisor. I’ll have to pull my shoulders back, look into the mirror and say with attitude, “I’m the fabulous Alicia Williams.”