22 Jun

Advice About Teaching…

Posted in MFA and Beyond, Teaching

…that also applies to the writing life.

Not too long ago, I took a class called “Teaching of Writing” as part of my MFA.  What with graduation and looking for teaching gigs, I promptly put away my notes from that class and forgot all about them.  This weekend, while glancing through my notebook, I came across notes from the final “Teaching of Writing” class and I realized that a lot of the advice the professor gave us applies not only to teaching, but also to building a fulfilling writing life.

Here are some lessons I learned in that class that can also apply to writing.

1.  Say “yes” to every opportunity.  Just as freelance teachers need to be open to opportunities, so should a writer.  Sometimes an opportunity may not seem like what you’re looking for, but it can lead to something.  And that something might lead to something else and somewhere down the line, you might wind up finding exactly the type of writing what you wanted to do.   

2.  Teach any subject (at least once). Similarly, as a writer it’s important to be open to writing any type of piece, at least once.  Who knows, maybe you’ll find that you love writing a how-to piece just as much as that paranormal romance novel.  The only caveat with this point is the “at least once” part.  If you find after you’ve tried something that it’s really not your thing, look for something else that’s more your style.  It’s easy to get sucked into a niche and once you’re there, it can be very difficult to break out. 

3.  Build a CV. This one’s a no-brainer.  As with any field, you need to show credentials, but in writing this can be tricky, what with submissions being so competitive.  I’ve found the only solution to this problem is: submit, submit, submit.  And when you’re done submitting, submit some more. 

4.  Do it for free (at first). There are lots of volunteer opportunities out there.  For starters, a lot of literary magazines (especially small ones) don’t pay for publications and writers submit simply for the joy of having their name out there in the world.  Blogging, being a guest blogger on someone’s site, all these things are ways to get your writing “out there” even if you’re just doing it out of a love of literature and words. 

5.  Be versatile.  In teaching, this means looking for scenarios where you might be able to teach writing in unconventional venues.  This same type of creative problem-solving can be helpful in expanding your publishing prospects.  Try to think of places outside the norm where your writing might fit.  Maybe your short story about a grandmother teaching a child to knit could be perfect for a knitting magazine. 

6.  Understand the way they run things…  and prepare yourself accordingly.  This is especially true when submitting your work to literary magazines or agents.  Each place has its own way of doing things and you need to play by the rules.  After all, the last thing you want is for some intern or first reader to toss your work in the reject pile just because your formatting is weird or you didn’t include an SASE. 

7.  Make your 100% better than 100% so you’re allowed to have a bad day.  This is especially true for writers who have blogs.  It’s important to keep the content consistent and strong, to give yourself the flexibility to have a “bad posting day” or skip a day when you need to do so.

    Any other teachers out there?  If so, do you have advice to someone who’s teaching her first live Writing Through the Senses class today?  How about teaching advice that also translates to writing?

    Wish me luck!  And don’t forget to check in tomorrow for our first online WTTS class.


    Comments on this post

    1. Ghenet says:

      Good luck with your first class! I know you're going to be a great writing teacher.

      1. notenoughwords says:

        Very pertinent advice, and applies to any self-employed person 🙂 I love having guest posters on my blog. They get exposure and I get interesting people who spark interesting comment discussions. It's win-win!

        1. Caroline Starr Rose says:

          Looking forward to hearing how it goes!

          1. gabi says:

            Thanks for the support Ghenet and Caroline! Class went really well and was a lot of fun.

            Notenoughwords – you're totally right, it definitely applies to any self-employed person. I wish I could take credit for the teaching advice but it was from our professor and the awesome guest speaker we had that day in class!

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