A couple of weeks ago I bumped into an ex-student at a seminar run by the Higher Education Academy. I taught her as an undergraduate on a module where writing out of your comfort zone and experimentation was encouraged. She told me I gave her two pieces of advice that she’s never forgotten and now passes on to her own students. For the life of me I can’t remember what the first nugget of wisdom was, but the second was to write about the things that scare you. She said she’d done this and now she can write about anything.
This made me realise how crippling fear can be. There is an element of fear in both writing and teaching; whatever your level of experience you are at the mercy of your students, your memory, your imagination, and for me that lack of control is what brings on those middle-of-the-night brain rushes that are the equivalent to five espressos. But I also know that if I didn’t have that anxiety I’m probably not doing it right. As Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Something that often gives me the midnight frights is the thought that juggling teaching and writing means I’m shockingly awful at both. I’ve been battling with this high wire act for six years now, feeling like writing and teaching are at opposite ends of the pole, always worrying about one while I’m doing the other. But I’ve recently realised something. It finally occurred to me that for six years, I have been doing both and my centre of gravity will be greater if I bring them together, accept that they depend on one another and embrace the fact that I’m so lucky to be able think about/talk about/write about writing every single day, even if I am trying to balance on a wire while I’m doing it.
So this is what this blog is going to be about. Teaching and writing and all the madness in between. I’ll write about campus life, books and stories, things that inspire me, things that make me want to give up and become a waitress. Any excuse to do some writing really.
And while I anticipate the next batch of submissions to mark, I hold onto the fact that I have a whole list of new writers, insights and ideas that I’ve gained from students this year, a list that will be even longer by the end of the semester. I love a good list, but that will have to wait until my next post because right now I’ve got a rare couple of hours free, so I’m going to settle down on the sofa, tell the fear to get lost, and finish that short story that’s finally starting to come together.