One of my friends posted a meme on Facebook that had Idris Elba (that alone got my attention!) with the words: Why aren’t you writing? blazed in bold across the top.
Huh. I thought back to my past few days, few weeks, few months, and I realized: I had not written anything! And here was Mr. Elba asking me why not?
Then I logged on to my course website and looked at the back log of student assignments I had yet to grade and there it was. I wasn’t writing because all of my intellectual and creative energy was being siphoned off to my students. Whenever I thought about writing something new (as if my brain were even awake enough to generate new ideas) or to pick up a project that had sat dormant for far too long, I would glance at my desk and see: papers to grade, online curriculum to create, lecture slides to prepare, novels to read and re-read in anticipation of the next class discussion. And then all of that enthusiasm to write drained down to my toes.
Many of my former classmates have FBed, blogged and otherwise bemoaned the difficulty of studying/teaching/working while trying to have a healthy and productive writing life. In fact, several of my former colleagues have suspended their graduate studies because of this. It’s a little late for that for me. I’m on the other side, trying to earn enough to pay off my (inordinately massive and incomprehensibly stifling) student loan debt without selling off pieces of my soul–in a figurative sense. (NOTE: I’m grateful to say in the literal sense my soul is no longer my own. Ask me if you’d like to know how that happened). All of this is not to say that I don’t enjoy my job. I do. I can honestly say that teaching university students has afforded me some of the most soul-stirring, joy-filled moments of my life. I love talking about literature. I love mentoring young people and seeing their creativity blossom.
But I hate grading papers!
After Mr. Elba’s meme-message shook me awake, I had to ask myself the startling, sad question: If I am not writing, then can I call myself a writer?
Because I want to be one. Every birthday-candle-blowing, penny-in-the-fountain-tossing, shooting-star-finding wish that I’ve made for the last 20 years, not to mention the last 12 years of schooling, has been with the intent of being a writer. I want people to be moved by my stories.
But how can they be if I’m not actually writing them?
*sigh* Mr. Elba, your meme has cut me to the quick.