177. Why Do I Do This?

Why, indeed?

I am writing this on May 14th. I’ve been writing this blog for about a year now. The first post was August 31 of last year, but I hate deadlines, so I wrote these mini-essays for several months and stowed them away before I began posting them. Even now, a year later, I don’t feel comfortable if I have less than a month of posts in the queue.

Fear of failure? Not exactly; more like fear of writer’s block.

Earlier today I was writing posts 164 and 167 when I had a particularly lucid moment. Everything felt familiar and I realized that what I am doing now is an extension of my whole life.

I am still teaching.

I began this website because my novel Cyan was going to be published and I wanted to build a readership to support it. That explains why I started; it does not explain why after three hundred plus posts (counting Serial) I am not yet out of breath, nor out of ideas.

The world is a glorious and terrifying place. If you are alive in the world, it you are paying attention, especially if you read widely and think about what you’ve read, you will find that you have a lot to say. I’ve been been soaking it all in for 68 years and I want to share what i’ve learned.

That’s why I started writing in the first place. Then, after ten years, I had two books published by major publishers, with one translated into German, and I was starving to death. I had to get a day job. I fell into teaching and found that I hadn’t changed professions at all.

There are many kinds of teachers and that’s a good thing, because there are many kinds of students. I guarantee you, no matter how good you are at teaching, some of your students will hate you. And no matter how bad you are (within limits) some students will love you. Every student comes with his or her own unique set of needs.

For me, teaching was storytelling – but I have to clarify that. The teacher (we’ve all had them) who spends his days telling tales instead of teaching deserves to be fired.

The connection of teaching to storytelling is through the act of finding all the things the world has to offer, choosing those things that are within you purview, sorting and winnowing facts, discovering connections where they are not obvious, finding analogies that bring those connections to life, organizing your presentation to match the background and attention span of your audience, and paying attention to feedback.

In short, the teaching storyteller and the writer are two shades of the same hue.

So, after I began this website to support Cyan, I found that writing the blogs was a familiar and satisfying process. The world is a huge and fascinating place; I still want to tell everybody what I’ve learned by studying it.

Most of those who respond to A Writing Life are other bloggers. A larger audience beyond the blogosphere still eludes me. No matter. I don’t give up. And as for all those posts I write that countless millions do not read – I’m used to that. I taught middle school for 27 years, and you would be amazed at how much they don’t listen.


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