In this round of posts on how teaching or mentoring affects our own writing, both Stephanie and David have touched on the fact that teaching is also a learning experience for the teacher. I strongly endorse that fact!
In my early days of writing, I worked in solitude by trial and error—writing, rewriting, and only reluctantly sharing the results with a few others. Then I tried collaborating with another writer, which involved a constant process of sharing, editing, and plugging away at an ultimately successful two books. My next stage of writing involved moving ahead on my own and enrolling in a MFA program. This was a huge step forward for me, as I went into the program with the intention of learning everything I could and soaking up ideas and advice from all my mentors and fellow students.
During the process, I discovered another love—that of teaching the craft of writing. But I also discovered that beyond the basics of good grammar, spelling, punctuation, and proper sentence structure and format, there is no true right or wrong way of writing. Everyone’s approach, experience, and voice is different. The workshops that I now teach at Misty Hill Lodge are not lectures or “lessons” as such. My goal is to offer opportunities for writers to explore ideas, expand their knowledge of the craft of writing, engage in lively discussions with other writers, and, above all, to WRITE. Over the past five years of teaching, I have learned every bit as much from my “students” as they have from me. There’s nothing like preparing a lesson plan to force yourself into studying a topic and pushing yourself to a deeper level of understanding in order to get the idea across to others. Often just one comment from a student adds another depth of meaning to the topic. My own level of writing has grown by leaps and bounds since I began teaching, and I hope I never stop learning and improving!
Two months ago I began mentoring a young 12-year-old writer, who plans to apply to the Literary Arts program at the Barbara Ingram High School for the Fine Arts. How I wish I had had this same opportunity when I was 12 years old! I can’t help but wonder how that would have changed (or sped up) my own writing career. One day I hope Kimberly will look back on a long career and remember a mentor who helped her get started. Maybe she will then do the same for some other aspiring writer.
Oh, the wide-reaching effects of teaching!