Teacher as Practitioner

by | Nov 12, 2021 | Weekly Prompt

My thoughts drift, more and more, to the next thing. 2022. What will Studio Friend be in its second year? I’ve had lots of ideas. One thing I’ve never lacked for is ideas. But the task at hand requires that I shift, eventually, from what appears to be an entire solar system of ideas, to a constellation of good ideas that seem to cluster into a rough shape, and then to a discernible plan on which I can fix the lens of my telescope. It may not be the ultimate North Star, but it’s what is in view for now.

Write Away Weekly is meant to be the flagship of Studio Friend. One weekly prompt. A dependable bit of inspiration to start your Saturday. But there are writing prompts all over the internet. Stacks and stacks of Substacks by writers who are much more illustrious than I. The real draw, I’d hoped, would be The Studio, where you can share your work and ask for feedback, and read other people’s work and offer feedback to them. 

In the beginning, there was some energy in The Studio, but it fizzled when I had a baby. I couldn’t keep it up, and so obviously nobody else did, either. But I kept writing prompts every week just the same. I do have subscribers, after all (Hi everyone! That’s you!). If I’m being honest, I find it a little harder every week to put this together. It feels kind of like teaching in an empty room, and hoping somebody walks by and happens to catch something I’ve said. 

So the question I’m facing is how to re-energize Write Away Weekly and to start (again) to build community, in a way that is more sustainable. 

I’ve had a few ideas, and Adam has had some other ideas. What I’m thinking, at the moment, is that I might back away from the persona of teacher, or expert, and write instead as a practitioner. So, rather than telling you what you should write about, perhaps I’ll tell you what I”m writing about, and how it’s going. What’s working and what isn’t. 

My reasoning for trying this model is two-fold: 1) I work better with deadlines, and with some kind of external accountability, so this is my way of creating that. Every week, I hope to have something to report. I hope that some writing or revision happened that I can tell you about. 

2) I hope that my example nudges you the way you want to go. And I mean that with great humility. I’m not necessarily going to be some great model of productivity. That’s just never going to be me, as a writer. But I will keep at it. If I don’t write much–or anything–one week, I will try to do more the following week. I will keep the faith. That’s all I can really promise. I will promise, also, imperfection, vulnerability, and plenty of self-doubt. 

So, as time passes, I’m hoping I can gently invite you to share, too. Tell us what you’re working on, or what you want to be working on, or why you aren’t working on it. Maybe share a snippet or two.

I’m going to start right away (write away), right now (write now). My ambition is to make 2022 the Year of Finishing. I have drafts of essays going all the way back to grad school (2005-2007) and a couple stories from college (!) that I still have some faltering belief in. 

The big one is my novel manuscript. Recently, I had a viral-for-me tweet that went, “I started my present-day novel so long ago that I think I need to make it historical fiction.” I started the novel a full decade ago. I’ve written probably four major drafts, and in that time I’ve had some nibbles from agents, and just enough substantive feedback from two different agents to know that I need to do a fifth major revision before I send it out again. I am on the verge, lately, of abandoning it. It just has felt so dated.

But even though my tweet was kind of a joke, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the novel would be much better if, instead of trying to dance around the fact that it used to be au courant and now is very much not, I went the other way, and made it very intentionally of it’s time, which is the late aughts. 

So my plan is now to presage, somehow, the moment we are in now, by writing deeply into the simmering Obama-era tensions of the book’s setting. It seems so obvious! When I told a neighbor about this issue, and said the book was about cheese, wine, and coincidences, she was like, “Ohhh yeah, that was really a cheese moment!” 

It really was a cheese moment! And I was a cheese monger at that moment. So I also don’t have to try to take on the entirety of those years, like everything that happened then that took us to now. I can just let the cheese moment do the work. 

Prompt

In a current draft or in revision, look at the setting (particular the time setting). How can you be more intentional in the context of the piece? Be sure not to try to take too sweeping a view–you need only to take on a sliver of context. Be oblique. 

This is probably especially relevant for fiction, but if you are writing a memoir, be sure to write your memory in context. You didn’t experience whatever you experienced in a vacuum. Let the air in.