During my first semester in the PhD program, I wrote a piece entitled, “Writing and Teaching: Only Together Do They Satisfy.” The next semester, I presented the paper at graduate-student conference, where it was well received. The premise of the paper was that my teaching “fed” my writing and that my writing “fed” my teaching. So far so good.
Throughout my academic career in the 9 years since I drafted that piece, I find that I still agree with much of what I said then; however, I’m confident I could state my points more elegantly now. A good session of writing (even brief) before I teach is beneficial to me emotionally, growing my confidence. A good session of class (whether it’s Creative Writing, Literature, or Composition) compels me to the writing desk.
But this summer, I taught not 1, but 2, classes in the same term. Each class met for 2 1/2 hours a day, four days a week. “Finding” time to write (a doomed pursuit, I know) or even “planning” time to write (a much better approach) were set aside in the corner of my office. For 2 weeks I did not pick up a pen to write or revise anything; I did not type into a keyboard to compose a story’s opening scene, much less tinker with a line of poem.
For 2 weeks I withered inside, so much so that it was visible on the outside. To switch the metaphor, I was trying to keep my head above the waters of the mighty “2-Class River,” and I’ve never taken swimming lessons (literally or figuratively). So 10 days into those summer classes, I made an important decision: I needed to write something everyday, even if it was 10 minutes worth, or 200 words, or 2 stanzas.
At first, I felt as though I were a beginning writer. It was akin to returning to running after a couple weeks off. I didn’t know if I could do it (despite all the past experiences to the contrary). When I had finished writing two pages (two pages!) in a small notebook, the delight was comparable to seeing one of my poems or stories in print. It felt that good, yes.
Right now, I’m trying to build up my stamina again, much like the training I’ve done (and will do) for running races. I’m not ready yet for a 1-hour writing session, as much as I want to do on. Even as I write this, it’s been over 25 minutes, and fatigue is nudging me.
It feels so good to be back.