Answering Your Writing Questions: Teaching vs. Writing

This is number two in an ongoing series in which I answer your writing questions. (It's not too late to ask one–you can check out the original post I wrote and leave a question in the comments.  I'll either devote a blog post to it or respond in the comments themselves if it's a short answer.)

My wonderful cyber-friend and amazing blogger Patrick Ross asked today's question.  If you haven't already, be sure to check out his blog, The Artist's Road.  It was voted one of the Top Ten Best Blogs for Writers and with good reason, which I'll leave it to you to find out.

Patrick asked:

How would you describe the balance you find between teaching writing and doing your own writing? I'm wondering if the process of working with other writers, and more specifically other writers' prose, interferes with your own writing process.

Thanks, Patrick, great question.  I think it is one we all struggle with, in different ways.  We want to be writers, with plenty of time to work on our own projects, and yet we have to make a living, too.  One obvious way is to teach, which I do.

Every so often, I decide that being a best-selling novelist would be the ticket–all day to work on fiction projects of my choosing with no other distractions.  It's my dream life. But then I remember how much I love blogging so I add that back onto my dream life.

And then I have a coaching call or lead a workshop and remember why I do it.  So I add that back in, too.  And I realize that I pretty much have my dream life.  I teach and coach writers  because it energizes and inspires me.  Not only that, I learn so much from my students and clients.  

Yes, there are some days that I would prefer to have more time to work on my fiction projects.  But if I went over to only writing fiction, I know I'd miss working with writers.  I'd miss the clarity that it gives me.  When I have to explain a technique on my blog, or point out how a student could make an aspect of her manuscript better, I have to think it through first.  And that gives me a much deeper understanding of my craft, which I can then use in my own work.

In terms of whether or not working with other writer's prose interferes, the answer is also no.  I can get very involved with my student's work, but I'm also able to keep a distance so that its not influencing me.  I fancy it is just like how some people don't like to read novels when they are working on novels because it influences or inhibits their own writing.  But I'm the opposite–when I'm immersed in a project, I need to read more.  Words in, words out.

So the short answer to your question is that I love teaching and coaching!

How about you guys?  Do you struggle to find balance?  How do you achieve it?

4 Responses to Answering Your Writing Questions: Teaching vs. Writing

  1. Patrick Ross 06/20/2012 at 18:35 #

    “When I have to explain a technique on my blog, or point out how a student could make an aspect of her manuscript better, I have to think it through first. And that gives me a much deeper understanding of my craft, which I can then use in my own work.”

    That’s very helpful to hear. It makes a lot of sense. Having just finished teaching my first class (on blogging), I think I experience that just in forcing myself to develop weekly curriculum materials.

    I’m glad to hear working with others’ prose doesn’t affect yours; that’s good news indeed.

  2. Charlotte Dixon 06/21/2012 at 06:37 #

    It sounds like that blogging class you taught was great–and yes, there's nothing like developing curriculum to remind you of what you do and don't know!  Thanks for a great question, Patrick, it was fun to answer.

  3. Terri 06/21/2012 at 11:30 #

    I completely agree. I learn so much when I teach (which, I think, is fairy universal with any subject). Within the group dynamic, I learn the varied ways people approach the creative process, the power of one finding one’s voice and sharing it, the give-and-take of writing in community. One of my classes is very “process” oriented and the atmosphere, very accepting and encouraging … and this rekindles my own creative flame. When working one on one (coaching a writer to render a piece for a reader), I have to move very deeply into the craft. I have to find ways to impart, to my client, “why” this is working or that isn’t working. And, again, I learn. And, yes, the curriculum development is a touchstone — reminding me of what I “do and don’t know.” And, of course, if I’m fuzzy on something, teaching compels me to research it, learn it, understand it. Great subject here!

  4. Charlotte Dixon 06/21/2012 at 14:41 #

    This is a great subject and I'm grateful to Patrick for bringing it up.  And your answer went even deeper than my original post, Terri.  I agree with everything you wrote!

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