Those Who Can, Teach

I’ve always hated the expression: Those who can’t, teach. It’s specifically meant to disparage teachers who can’t, supposedly, make it in the “real” world by doing their art, whatever it may be.

For some people, teaching is a second choice. They can’t make a living doing what they want to do, so they teach. If they are frustrated by this reality, it comes across in their teaching.

I still remember this undergrad creative writing professor who was described by upper classmates as a very tough. I’m pretty sure that description came from students who’d survived his eviscerating criticism and were too intimidated to say, “Hey, asswipe, telling me my writing is trite, hackneyed and pointless is not helpful.” Sheesh, We were nineteen, for crying out loud, we’d barely begun our lives, never mind, learned how to write. In short, he was mean. It was like he was on mission to: a) make sure we never wrote again; b) decimate his competition c) scare students into believing he was a good writer; d) all of the above.

Fortunately, I have had many writing teachers for whom teaching is joy. All of them are working novelists, poets, playwrights and screenwriters who brought a spirit of collegiality to the classroom. They wanted me to grow as a writer. Every one of them opened up their writers’ toolboxes and showed me how they shaped and honed point of view, voice, setting, etc. They wanted me to succeed because they loved writing. They loved sharing the joy of the craft with me. They wanted me to feel the feeling of writing an excellent story or a fully realized novel. They wanted to jump up and down with me when these labors of love got the notice they deserved.

That’s why I teach. For the joy. For the community. For the generosity of spirit.

I have two upcoming classes. One is a Writer’s League of Texas Webinar on Crafting short fiction (August 30, 6:30-9:30pm) and the other is a six week short fiction workshop at the Writing Barn which starts on Tuesday, September 19. Please join me.