Why Teaching is Good for Writers

Recently, I received word that I would be teaching two writing classes for the local (Sarasota/Manatee County, Florida) Adult and Continuing Education program. I proposed a Fiction Writing Basics class (self-explanatory) and a class called, Leaving a Legacy of Words, which focuses on writing a personal or family history to be shared with children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and so on.

I put together a brief outline of the classes before I met with the folks in charge of the program, so I knew what the classes would cover in the broadest sense of the word. Then, last week, I started planning out the actual course content and trying to figure out how much (or, in this case, how little) I can fit into six weeks of classes on creative writing. I started looking at the high points and trying to decide how I would add meat to the bones.

And, it hit me, as it has so many times in my life as an educator, how important teaching is to solidify learning.

Just as writing helps me work out what I’m thinking and feeling, what I know and what I suspect about life, teaching helps me work out additional levels of knowledge and understanding about those things I’m most passionate about. I have tons of notes and handouts and examples of writing strategies and bits of inspiration that I accumulated during the MFA years, and at some point all of those things become either artifacts of a time past, or they are integrated into a deeper, richer whole.

If I’m teaching, and reaching back into those notes to find those bits of inspiration to share, it is much less likely that all of those things will become just useless hieroglyphs of a long-forgotten epoch of this life.

This isn’t news to me, but it does still catch me unaware, every time I’m able to share something that is important to me, just how much more ingrained into my own thoughts and actions and philosophy those “important” things become. They become important not just in word, but in deed.

I hope you are having a good spring, even as some of you were reminded this past weekend of the chilly realities of winter.

If you would like to know more about the Fiction Writing Basics and the Legacy Writing classes I’ll be teaching here in the Bradenton and Sarasota area, please feel free to contact me. The classes will be daytime classes, at the USF campus. If you aren’t local, or can’t make those classes, I do offer both on-line and in-person creative writing classes for individuals and small groups. You can check out my web-site for more information (www.WordsMatterESW.com) or drop me a line.

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