Posted by on Jul 15, 2008 in teaching | 3 Comments

Writing, teaching, writing

I wonder if other writers find that their own writing comes to a complete stop if they are teaching? Mine certainly does. I was facilitating Hove Library’s two writing groups on 5 and 12 July and from about 3 July until this morning I wrote not a work that wasn’t reports or teaching plans.

The idea interests me because I know many fine teachers of creative writing who never seem to get anything published. Is it because teaching requires so much of them that they don’t write? I’m not sure, but I do know that this is why I limit my own teaching time very strictly. I like teaching but I love writing, and I want to be a writer, not a teacher. I did bake some bread though, and make a rhubarb crumble tart, and some redcurrant muffins. But that doesn’t really count as creativity – more as greed!

Does any more experienced writing tutor or academic wish to share their own experience? I’m fascinated to know if my personal experience can be generalised to the writing community as a whole.


  1. Vanessa Gebbie
    15th July 2008

    Hi Kay,

    I share the same worry, and find that certain teaching has this draining effect. Teaching school kids, for example, where there is a requirement to draw up a fixed lesson plan. Any teaching of beginners.

    However, working with writers who are not beginners has a supportive effect on my own creative processes. In engaging in interesting debate, I learn too. That’s the sort of ‘open’ teaching I love to do…. where I am less of a ‘teacher’, and more of a catalyst.

    Does that make any sense at all?

  2. Nik's Blog
    16th July 2008

    I was talking about this, only yesterday, with the poet, Joy Winkler and we both agreed that it’s something we have to accept and deal with. It’s different head spaces, as she put it. Different parts of the brain and ways of thinking. When you’re with students (not me) or writing groups (me) you’re thinking about writing for and with them, as opposed to for you and your reading audience. It’s difficult, isn’t it?

    That said, as V’s mentioned, seeing things from different angles and being in that different head space can help. Sometimes, in some ways. Like I said, difficult innit!


  3. Sarah Salway
    7th August 2008

    I think it’s hard to combine the two. They occupy different spaces within me – and I would find it hard to teach without a little of the protective shell I try to do away with when I write. There’s also the admin and reading that goes with it.
    HOWEVER I have found that when teaching comes to an end – and I’m lucky in that I do university teaching so we have terms – the writing gushes out. It’s as if it’s been stored up. I always fear that it won’t but, touch wood, I’ve been lucky so far.
    Interestingly for me, the other teaching I do – Arvon, my private classes – feed my writing more. I’m wondering now as I write this if it’s a question of structures and admin rather than teaching that holds me up.


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