The TA Diaries: Balancing Real Writing with Teaching of Ratoricle Devises

September 21, 2009

Posted by Rick

One of the downfalls of having a TAship is that you can get so caught up in the business of teaching—the lesson preparation, the grades, trying to remember what a reflexive pronoun is, or whether a comma splice beats a full house—that you forget about why you are here to begin with. (To write.)

Being in the CW MFA program is not like Rhet. & Writing or Lit., concentrations that don’t require original thought. (I kid!) Rather than baffling them with bullshit, or unraveling the as yet undiscovered meaning in a 100 year-old text, we CWers must create what is essentially a lie, out of whole cloth.  It’s a different mindset from the normal academic mind—I would venture to say—in a most literal sense. It is not an easy thing to switch from the left brain of analysis to the right brain of creativity.

And so, in the midst of writing that lesson plan we have to remember to write some fiction, or poetry, or the basically truthful CNF.  I’ve been struggling with that this semester.

You know that feeling that at some point, someone will unmask you for the fraud you are? That’s where my head has been: I’ve been trying to finish a story I started about six months ago. Each time I start back on it, I realize its crap. I can’t think of any other thing to write about. Where the hell can one go with a story that starts with something along the lines of “The rosy-fingered dawn skittered across the slumbering village like a herd of yaks on roller skates”? Everyone else in the Fiction Workshop is a bloody genius. I haven’t written my lesson plan for tomorrow’s 101 class. When it does come time to share my short story, the rest of the class will shred it. Julie will demand I resign from the program and I’ll be ridden off campus on a tarred-and-feathered rail!

And then, suddenly, thanks to an ultra-vague writing prompt for a craft exercise, the story hit me and I began writing and writing and, joy of joys, I’ve got something that I’m really liking and I’m excited to share. I can even hear myself reading it at a works-in-progress event.

But  better yet, rather than using my 101 preparation as an excuse to not write, I spent the weekend writing, blowing off my English students until late in the evening.


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