July 31, 2009


Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you're doomed.
Ray Bradbury

That about takes care of my writing for this summer, I guess.

I've been compiling quotes on writing for use in my first day of class. I used to do some sort of a game, where they'd interview each other and introduce each other and names, and jokes, and people liked it. But in reality, no one remembered anyone's name, and unless they had some sort of fascinating hobby, like being a bouncer in a bar, no one paid much attention. And it takes sooo much time and while it broke the ice, I'm ready for a change.

So I'm compiling a series of quotes--some short, some lengthy--and I'll pair up these students, have them talk about it, write about it for my First Day Writing Sample. Then they'll get up and talk about it a little, and intro their partner.

In reviewing all these quotes, some taken from a writing journal I kept for one of my classes, it reminds me that I once wanted to be a writer. Yep. I did. I have an undergraduate degree in Creative Writing and then went back for an MFA in Creative Writing (CRWT). All so I can make a pittance a month (I figure I'm safe from pink slips as we adjuncts make practically nothing at all, so we're the last great bargain) and teach English, in which I have no degree in at all. I have offered (begged) to teach CRWT, but those plum jobs go to the full-timers, of which there are NO slots for us adjuncts to slide into. I've tried that one too.

But trying to get back to the person who wanted to be a writer from the person who now teaches English and is tired most of the time seems like a grand yawning canyon in the space-time continuum. I almost believe I can do it sometimes. I think of Frank McCourt, who taught writing in high school for years--years!--and then wrote Angela's Ashes and Teacher Man (the latter book which I recommend highly, for all you writing teachers out there). Another over-60 writer was Harriet Doerr, who began at 67. Norman Maclean was 78 when A River Runs Through It was published. Tillie Olsen began publishing in her 70s; although she did write a brilliant first chapter of a book when 19 (which was published in the Parisian Review), work, children and housekeeping responsibilities kept her from the writing world until she was older.

What keeps me from leaping over that chasm? I've identified a few things:
Unwillingness to hurt others with possible revelatory writing
Fatigue, of brain, of body
Grading papers during the semester
Letting other people's needs/wants/desires/hopes cut to the head of my line of needs/wants/desires/hopes.
Belief that I can't be an Evil Knievel and glide over the divide of my life
Belief that I can't be disciplined enough to write, daily
Belief that I can't rise to the top of the publisher's slush pile, even I did write
Belief that I can't.

I happened on the NaNoWriMo site. It almost makes me believe that I can.


  1. My aunt, who has self published a small book and has done lots of writing that has gone unrecognized told me you just have to write something every day. It sounds daunting but I bet you could do it. You did it in March right? August one is just round the corner -why not try a repeat, write something every day for August. I will join you.

  2. I think that sounds like a great way to begin a class: straight to work!

    At our Stake Women's Day, there was a woman (I would guess she was 80 years old) who was sharing all her poetry books. All were self-published. She said, "Well, I have sort of been slowing down. I only write 2 or 3 poems a day now."

    I have read a few blogs where the writer is participating in NaNoWriMo (?) and I know they all say it helps just to get the habit started. Oh, and have you read "The Artist's Way"? It is kind of a creative workbook that is full of activities that help you get the junk out of your mind so you can get to the good stuff. You have to write as much nonsense as you can for 5 minutes each day, then you can think clearly. I recommend the book for sure!

  3. I just might take that quote idea to start my classes this fall! It sounds like a more relevant activity to get them thinking and get them focused. Thanks for the great idea!!!

    And if you haven't read Bird by Bird my Anne Lamott, it's a definite read or re-read before the school year starts. It motivates me to write everytime I read it.