Just in case you’re wondering why I suddenly went MIA on you, I’ve been losing my mind as an adjunct professor. These past two classes have been my first on-my-own teach or die trying classes in a face-to-face setting. Man, let me tell you, there’s nothing that gives you more confidence that hiding behind a computer screen, and there’s nothing more daunting than taking that screen away. Teaching. Is. Terrifying.
But it’s also fulfilling. And teaching a research writing (and now a composition) course has taught me a few things about writing that I’d like to share with you. This is for those of you who maybe want to be a writer but aren’t confident to submit your work to lit agents or magazines, OR it’s for those of you who hate writing in general and aren’t really sure how you ended up on this blog post or why you’re still reading it.
1. Writing doesn’t have to be grueling.
Sure, it might be hard work. You have to put in the man hours to study how to write before you can even write. But it doesn’t have to be painful. Writing shouldn’t be the equivalent of a triple bypass surgery where you’re knocked out for days and then can’t move easily for even more.
Think of writing like tending a field. You have to plant the seeds (come up with an idea), water it (learn how to write), and make sure those ugly weeds don’t choke your cute little tomato plant to death (the actual act of writing). Even when your plant has produced its little fruit or vegetable, you can’t just let it wither and die (proofreading, editing, rewriting). It’s hard work. But it’s not awful. And you get a tomato at the end, which is a reward in itself.
2. Writing doesn’t have to be boring.
The biggest complaint I receive as a professor is that writing papers is hard because it’s so boring and I can’t do it and wah wah wah. This. Is. Bologna. You can do it, you just don’t want to because a) you’ve been taught that writing is boring, b) you’re just being a lazy brat, or c) all of the above.
Don’t just write what you know. Write what you love. Write what you’re interested in. Of course don’t just run head first into a topic you know nothing about and act like an expert. Research. Interview. Learn. I’ve never read a more passionate paper than one talking about insurance scams. It was intriguing to me because I saw that the student who wrote it found it interesting to write about.
Trust me, we can tell when you’re bored with a paper topic.
3. Writing isn’t just for the naturally gifted.
I am 100% in favor of anyone wanting to be a writer. I am not 100% in favor of anyone thinking that all writing is is throwing down some words on a paper and having someone publish it. No no no. It doesn’t work like that. Blogs may work like that, but publication does not. So if you are writing strictly to be published and you refuse to learn the art of writing, I will not go out of my way to help you. Sorry. It’s offensive to those of us who try so hard to learn how to write well and how to make our piece nearly perfect before sending it in. It’s not the ignorance I mind, it’s the complete dismissal.
I say all that to say if you have ever thought about writing anything at all, please do it! Try it! See how it makes you feel. Learn more about it (this I will be happy to help with!). And be willing to accept changes. But seriously, don’t think that just because you aren’t JK Rowling or Edgar Allen Poe that means you can’t write. That is a lie and I will not have it.
So while I’m over here not writing because I’m teaching and drowning in grading papers and lack of sleep, I hope you’re writing. Or reading, if that’s your cup of tea.
For now, I’ll take the 15 minutes of writing I can catch here and there until this class is over and I have my life back. But who needs that?