Question of the Day: “Am I a writer?”

My newest read Still Writing is splayed open and upside down next to me. My mom bought the book for me last summer, and yesterday I picked it from the pile, despite the stack of unread books I just received as Christmas gifts.

Reading is my habit. I read constantly, but I have been struggling to find the time. Now the grace of the holiday break have afforded me a few moments to pick up the text I have been meaning to read for months.

It’s a good little book by Dani Shapiro. It has infused motivation for me to beginning writing again. What I should be writing…I know not. Currently, I still feel exhausted helping my students through the writing process. By the time I am home and able to relax, the last thing I want to do is peel open my Chromebook and search for words or meaning or anything else for that matter.

Which leads me to today’s difficult question of “Am I a writer?”

When I was little, I would lay in the back of my parents’ white station wagon as they drove around and I would dream of being a writer someday. In my earliest memories, I remember writing poems and plays, short stories and bits of novels. I carried a writer’s notebook with me everywhere after Stephen King suggested it in his book On Writing: A Memoir on the Craft. I filled folders and open journal pages by the dozens before I was sixteen. My bachelor’s degree was in writing with minors in history, philosophy and literature because I believed that studying writers before me had meaning.

Now I am 45 years old. I am no closer to my dream of being a writer than I am to the dream of being an Olympic athlete. I spend my days teaching writing, not doing it, and the clear gist of this book is that writers write.

The only writing I do these days are the sporadic blog posts I send out into the void of nothing. Sometimes I hear amazing voices back with comments or questions. There are times I even get the illusive “like” or “follow”, but does this make me a writer?

If not, then how do I earn this moniker? If so, then how do I see it as well?

Identifying as a teacher is so much easier. I have students and a classroom, and teaching is so much more gratifying than writing. It is immediate feedback. It is seeing my students change and grow. It is explaining an important step and hearing the words, “Oh, okay. I get it now,” and being filled with such completeness and accomplishment. I can’t imagine ever getting such a solid response from writing.

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Teaching also pays the bills. Writing has never once put money in my pocket, so it can only be done due to sheer will.

Finally, I will end with one of the best parts of the book so far, though there is definitely a multitude of sage advice and insight. Shapiro writes about how one of her writing students once asked her she (the student) should be a writer or go and work for Merrill Lynch. Shapiro responded, “Merrill Lynch!” Her reason was clear: “The only reason to be a writer is because you have to.

And in this my answer became so clear. I am not a writer. I am not a writer because I don’t have to be and even more clearly want to be, but I do want and have to be a teacher. Despite how being a teacher takes away my time and desire to write, it is where my heart is. Writing may always be a crush, but my love, my love is education. There is a drive and a desire in me to teach that moves so far beyond anything I have ever known in this life. Teaching is something I have to do because it is everything that I am. Facilitating students in the process of learning two of the most important skills in this life (reading and writing) creates a sense of purpose in my life. It is a constant reminder of the work that must be done for our children. I deeply love the process of finding ways to reach my students and metaphorically help them through. Teaching is my have to and it is my must do.

Love and Light, you beautiful beings.

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