This year I’ve been teaching a creative writing course at the LGBT Foundation. Actually, I’m halfway through. It’s been a great learning experience and has really shaped what and how I want to teach later on. The following post is basically a set of comments very obvious to anyone remotely involved in teaching. Don’t expect revelations.
It helps that I’ve been lucky with my fiction tutors myself. In particular, I’ve had a couple who’ve managed to nail exactly what I needed as a student. For me it’s a mixture of things: from building a student’s confidence in their work, assessing where and how a specific piece can be improved, and also suggesting a more broadly the next steps the student might take with regards to style, tone, content, etc. etc.
Now I’m on the other end of things, I can safely say that it doesn’t simply just ‘happen’. It is, after all, a kind of work. It takes work to prep a class so it feels seamless. It takes work to correctly establish how much support/management – emotional, technical, and aesthetic – is appropriate. What’s interesting, obvious, even a little mundane is that the output (what your labour nets you) is, in theory, the expansion of another person’s creative capacity. Who can argue with that as a worthwhile way to spend your time?
I don’t want to over-egg the pudding – after all, teachers are also just people – but it feels nevertheless true to me to say that a good writing teacher is given abstract rewards for their efforts and that these can include but are not limited to: a student’s willingness to persevere through rejection, criticism, and failure; an understanding that weaknesses are to be expected and can be overcome with time and work; a fortified sense of self.
These all feel pretty key in my opinion to writing. Sure, good feedback is one thing a strong and committed writing group can supply (and I have just the group for that) – but a path out of the mire, or a map for when times get bad is something invaluable to an emerging writer. It is this – the map, the lamp – that I feel most crucial.