Note: To see what the 5 Minute Month is all about, click here to read the first post in the series.
For a variety of reasons, I’ve spent part of the day pondering what it means to teach — or perhaps, more accurately, to be a teacher. And, alongside of that, what it means to be a writer. That’s a question that I’ve long found distasteful, for reasons that I do not entirely understand. I’m always reminded of the scene in Curtis Hanson’s film adaptation of Michael Chabon’s novel Wonder Boys, in which Rip Torn’s blustering, all-ego “great writer” character steps to the microphone in an oak-paneled lecture hall, glances smugly around the room, and declares loudly “I… am a writer.” The moment is intentionally ludicrous, a fact underscored by Tobey Maguire’s inrepentant laugh, part snort, part giggle, and part guffaw, which cuts through the pretentious atmosphere in the room to reveal the foolishness of the statement.
Again, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what that question means, and why I tend to shy away from it, why I tend to avoid confronting it. The truth of the matter is, although writing is so much a part of myself, such a vital part of life that I cannot honestly comprehend why everyone does not feel the need to write pressing down up on them at all times, I do not tend to identify myself as a “writer,” because I do not feel worthy of the title.
So when I read this post from Grub Street founder Eve Bridberg, pushing back against the notion that teaching and writing are activities that are only “valid” when the so-called “right people” provide the validation. I urge you to check it out for yourself — it’s a pretty inspiring post. I particularly appreciate her critique of so-called “institutions” of writing, the people, places, and programs that succeed largely by convincing thousands of writers that they are not the “real deal” until they have received validation from just the right institutions.
And as a wonderful bonus, the page contains a link to yet another amazing and inspirational talk from Amanda Palmer, titled “Connecting the Dots.” It’s about 30 minutes long, and worth every moment — I won’t even try to summarize it, its best to just go ahead and watch it for yourself.
Word count: about 380
Time: maybe 10 minutes