Practicing what I preach: The teacher as writer

I’ve recently started reading Stephen King’s On Writing, his 2000 memoir that serves as a brief discussion on the habits and mindset of a professional writer. I’m not really sure why I picked it up–I’ve read little to none of his work, and I don’t usually go for memoirs*.

But, something has been gnawing at me for a few months now, and it’s this idea that a teacher (especially a writing teacher) should practice what he preaches. I frequently look my students in their eyes and say things like, “you should be reading ALL THE TIME,” or “reading and writing are like inhaling and exhaling.” So it seems pretty phony of me (amirite Holden?) to not follow my own advice.

Don’t get me wrong. I read all the time. Walk through my house and you’ll feel like one of Swift’s Brobdingnagians, traipsing past tall stacks of books, each its own little building. I can’t get enough of the reading part. But writing? Sure, I have a blog, but I don’t contribute to it with any real regularity. I write emails. Boy, do I write a mean email. Lots…and…lots…of…emails.

Viagens_de_Gulliver_042

Hey little guy! Quit emailing and pick up a book!         (By Thomas M. Balliet (Projeto Gutenberg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

So I had already been thinking, I should make a habit of writing. There it was, hanging out in the back of my brain, amongst all of the other creatures that live there — Get that closet door fixed. Enroll in more classes. Put up that shelf. Call your mother. Write every single day. And while this nagging idea gained more life and grew– that I need to write more frequently—, there it was: King’s On Writing, plopped right in front of me on the “Summer Reads” table at Barnes and Noble. I am so glad I picked it up.

King’s chief accomplishment in On Writing is in lifting the curtain on writing well. I, too, must admit that growing up I thought that “good writing” was a skill only some people possessed, and yet King delineates very practical rules for improving your craft: setting a routine, using your vocabulary, knowing your grammar. Like many skills, writing can be honed, and even today, I need to hone my own.

So, I’m setting the goal to write every single day this summer. Come September, I will no longer be just a writing teacher, but also a writing co-conspirator. My students’ struggles will be my own struggles, and we can talk about where we hit hurdles in putting ideas on a page.

I’m looking forward to joining my own class.

*I know, that may sound weird. People try to convince me to read more of them. I recognize that there are many well-written, life-changing memoirs, but I’m weirdly stubborn about reading them. Go ahead, send me the titles of your favorite memoirs. I’m sure I won’t read them.
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One thought on “Practicing what I preach: The teacher as writer

  1. Pingback: Writing and the Energy to Teach | GerardDawson.org

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