What, me? Teach?

Make a living as a writer? Oy.

A crazy idea. I would starve to death in an attic somewhere.

Be a teacher, they told me. It’s good, steady work, respectable, safe—hah!—and, my mother said, “you can write in the summer.”

I was a teenager when we had that conversation, and I knew everything. So even though I had loved many of my teachers, enjoyed talking in front of a class, in fact suspected that I might indeed like teaching, I decided I would never do it. Never. I didn’t want to be safe. I was going to wear a black beret and black tights and a black turtleneck and puff my Pall Malls through a long black cigarette holder. I wasn’t afraid of risk. My writer’s life would be full of danger and excitement.

I wasn’t wrong about that, anyway.

I wanted to write fiction but necessity demanded I do all kinds of writing to support the habit. Journalism. That didn’t work out. Advertising. Lies of all kinds. Hated that.

I finally got published by a major house. And discovered, at various panels and signings, I liked talking about the art of fiction, especially to aspiring novelists. Although I didn’t know much about writing or being a writer, I could help people who knew even less. And they were grateful! When had a vice president in charge of marketing, advertising and pyramid schemes ever said Thank You?

I felt the pull of people who had books in their head. Who oozed creativity and passion, had something to say and were overwhelmed by the need to say it. They had so much to give me. Could I really give something valuable to them? How satisfying it would be.

Hm, I thought. Damned if that doesn’t sound like teaching. Maybe I should give it a try. At first, live classes. Then manuscript consulting. Then the web. Online classes. I love it. I love my students. I write and I teach and so many parts of me are satisfied.

I wish my mother had lived to say I told you so.


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3 Responses

  1. Shelley,

    Oh, yes, Mom is frequently right! The older I get, the more I discover that.

    Janet

  2. Shelley, I agree with your thoughts on teaching. I’ve combined teaching and writing all my life to date, and loved both. Of course teaching does steal away one’s creative juices, so that’s a drawback.But students have inspired my writing, too, and offered great feedback when they’ve, on occasion, read my books. Yes, a class that really rocks offers the satisfaction of an enthusiastic review.

  3. I’ve got an ongoing workshop–online–that takes a huge amount of my energy but gives back so much. New people join it from time to time but there’s a large core of regular students, some of whom go back years, producing some of the most wonderful prose. We’ve become close friends even though most of us have never met in person. Takes time, takes a lot of energy, but gives back so much joy.

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