Writing and Teaching Writing: It’s the Same Thing
A few years ago, I was interviewing to find a new writing teacher for our arts camp. One applicant told me in the interview: It’s good that teaching positions exist because when you can’t make enough money in the arts, teaching is the next best way to make money.
If an artist views teaching as financial fallback, then I would question how they define what it means to be an artist. As A.L.Kennedy puts it in her excellent book on writing, being an artist may be HARD, but it’s also a privilege. Privileges carry responsibilities. And those include the responsibility to inspire. We inspire by writing, making art, acting… but by creating, we also open a dialogue. We speak to our readers and to our audiences, but we also speak to those who aspire to create. That means, we teach.
I couldn’t imagine writing or directing without teaching. Those processes are intertwined. When I set a writing challenge, and witness eyes widen with sudden possibilities, pens move furiously across paper and creative tension settle over the room, then something inside me, as a writer, is refreshed. I see again how big everything can be. I am humbled by everything that others can do. And being inspired and humbled – that’s a great combination.
Years ago, I took a group of teenager students on a theatre tour to Cornwall. As the sun set over the ocean, we ripped off our socks and shoes and plunged into the waves, screaming. One of the teens said to me: how come you do this with us when you’re – like – old? I was about 30 at the time. But I thought about it, and the answer was clear. When you teach, you learn. You open yourselves to others. Your life, your awareness expands.
I’m excited for The Finding Place to find its way into the hands of readers. But I’m equally excited to think that the book may give me a chance to go into schools – to inspire and be inspired by teaching and reading. I’m an introvert. These things are tough. But tough things can be thrilling, and necessary.