Time to write

Well, it’s official. It’s fall. I’m wearing a fleece. I’m inside my house, wearing a fleece. It’s black because I’m in mourning for summer.

O, summer. You had such a short life. You will be missed.

Not much going on except, oh, major update on the teaching front. Last week I went to my class with an idea borrowed from someone I know through Facebook and other people I’ve actually met. The idea: BIG.

Turns out my class is brand new, and everyone in the class is a senior about three months away from graduation. The course is the last writing course in the new creative writing emphasis for undergraduate English majors. Very cool. Wish I’d known that going in, because that sort of situation calls, I think, for special planning. I decided it wasn’t too late to fix the error, so last week the group and I worked out a new plan together.

BIG. We’re going big or going home. Instead of a normal workshop course, we’re doing a write-a-thon model. Sort of NaNoWriMo, but longer, more sane.

I considered having them do NaNoWriMo. That’s actually what the friend-of-a-friend’s plan was. But these students hadn’t really signed up for something that ambitious and insane. What they’d signed up for was a capstone course, and the best experience I could imagine sending them out into the world with was something they could sustain.

A writing life isn’t easy to sustain. Everything and everyone conspires to take your time away, your energy. These students are adults, so it’s not like they don’t have lives already. But they’re about to leave the university, hopefully find jobs they want if they don’t have them already, get on with their getting-on. But it’s the getting-on part that takes all your hours and all your brain. Classes have a way of forcing you to produce. Without deadlines, well, you know.

And I was a living example. Ever since I’d been preparing for this class, I hadn’t written a word on my book. Not a single word. And then I’m supposed to go to class and tell my students how they should be getting their work done?

I’m not a fan of hypocrisy.

I leveled with them and offered us both a plan. A big plan. We’re all—ALL OF US—trying to write 750 words a day five times a week for the length of the class. We’ll still do workshop, but we’ll spend our time outside of class focusing on production. Instead of hoping, someday, when everything else is taken care of, it will be time to write. I’m re-writing the syllabus to be in service of this plan. And in the time we have left, if we keep to our plan…750 words times 5 times 10 weeks. That could add up to 37,500 words. Not quite NaNoWriMo’s goal, but a practice they might be able to keep, even when life comes calling.

I’m so happy about this change in plans. I feel like I can actually give them something of value here, and in the mean time, I’m staying in the writing game myself.

So far, it’s working. On Thursday, I was booked. Work, lunch with colleagues, work out, LIFE. But I thought of my students and of what I was asking them to do, and I wrote 750 words. I emailed them to encourage them to find time even for a few hundred words, even if they couldn’t reach 750. One wrote back and said he’d written 1,000.

How could I not keep up? Not a fan of hypocrisy.

It’s time to write.

By Published On: September 19, 2010Categories: Black Hour, Teaching, Writing, Writing life