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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Writer as Teacher

I was at a fiction reading last week where, during the Q&A afterwards, a member of the audience asked, "If you write novels, why do you even teach? Why don't you just write?" The whole audience turned its collective head in shock, wanting to see who the obviously-not-an-MFA-holder was in their midst. The obvious answer seemed to be, "How else am I supposed to live?!?!" but the writer fielding the question handled it with aplomb, explaining that teaching provided many benefits that, say, driving a bus or bank telling might not.

In the recent New York Times College Issue, fiction writer David Gessner answers the question in detail, exploring the competing demands of writing and teaching in his essay "Those Who Write, Teach." Among others, he takes on the question, "What, other than a romantic conception of the writer as creative monomaniac, is lost by the fact that many of us now make salaries almost on par with entry-level accountants?"


Chris said...

Read this a few days ago. Really enjoyed how Gessner argued with himself through the article. You could feel parts of him straining against the constraints of teaching, even as other, more rational parts of his brain tried to explain to himself how well the job fit his life.

the unreliable narrator said...

And Julian Gould, on David Foster Wallace; he's almost certainly wrong about almost everything--but not about the toll exacted by teaching.