Honoring the Craft
by Amy Paturel
You might have heard the platitude “those who can’t do, teach.” Obviously, I don’t agree with that theory. I’m a teacher. Plus, I have several friends and acquaintances who defy that logic. And yet, I also recognize that teaching makes doing a lot more challenging.
A former student, who is also a writer and professor, likens teaching to a “joyful bloodletting” whereby you insert an IV into your vein and suck all of the creativity out of your bloodstream.
While it isn’t quite that intense for me, I’m also not teaching full time (though it feels like full time!). What I have noticed since the coronavirus pandemic began, and I started feeling pulled to reach more students, is that I have to be more intentional about my craft. I have to make it a priority not only to read my students’ work, but also to tackle my own. What that requires, of course, is discipline — something I’ve been sorely lacking!
Here’s the thing: For weeks, I had been writing an essay my mind, and occasionally in my journal. A piece that required me to only sit in front of a computer and think thoughtfully for a chunk of time. The problem was, with three kids, a husband, four jobs, and two ongoing workshops, well, I didn’t have a chunk of time!
So, I decided to approach my essay writing like any other assignment (to a degree). The key prop: A timer! But I’m jumping ahead. Allow me to back up and walk you through my process step by step.
- Be spontaneous. Don’t wait for the right time, or the best time, or the time when you have uninterrupted time. Just sit down with a pad of paper, or pull up a blank document, and go for it. You’ll hear people tell you to block out time in your calendar or make an appointment with yourself. If that works for you, GO FOR IT! If not, be spontaneous about it. Me? I wrote at the picnic table while my kids rode their bikes around me. I recorded notes on my phone will driving to the grocery store. I worked within the confines of my reality.
READ MORE ABOUT AMY'S PROCESS HERE
CRAFT A BETTER ESSAY WITH AMY: There are still a few seats available in the Writing the Personal Essay studio with Amy. Four weeks of asynchronous learning begins on Sunday, October 24 and runs till Saturday, November 20, 2021. In addition to guiding you through the essay writing process, Amy will provide practical advice on pitching and submitting essays, so you can grab editors attention. You’ll find program details, registration information, and our full list of classes at charlottelit.org/classes.
ABOUT AMY: Amy Paturel has been crafting essays for more than two decades and teaching personal essay writing for more than 15 years. Her personal and reported essays frequently appear in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Discover, Good Housekeeping, Parents, and more. Two of her pieces were featured in Newsweek’s “My Turn” column, and she garnered two “honorable mention” awards in ASJA’s personal essay category (2009 and 2011).