There was an interesting conference today in Dublin all about writing classes/workshops which I've been following on Twitter. A question came up - why do writers teach creative writing? Is it for the money? Book sales? To find material. And it got me thinking. Why do I teach?
In fact I was teaching only last night - Writing for Children at the Irish Writer's Centre. We talked about what makes a good children's book - unforgettable characters, beautiful writing, a cracking plot, emotion, drama . . . ? We talked about memory and using our past to shape fictional characters. And above all, it was fun. I learned a lot and I hope the other writers did too!
And that's the main reason I teach: because it's fun. Writing is a lonely old business, and now and again it's very healthy to step out from behind the desk and meet 'real people'. I also teach because I believe in passing things on. I've been very lucky in my writing life, many, many people have been very kind and helpful to me. And if I can help someone else, even in a small way, I believe it's my duty to do so.
I've been involved in the book world as a writer and a bookseller for nearly twenty years now, and I like passing on what I know about the business to people who are interested. Plus I adore talking about books, and as most writers are also huge readers, the book chat in workshops is always fascinating.
To answer the question posed on Twitter (and above): I genuinely don't do it for the money. Depending on the organisation, I don't always charge for workshops or talks. I don't do it for book sales - I'm not sure 15 sales (the max number I like to take in a class) would make the slightest bit of difference overall. To find material? If this means being wowed by the amazing people in the class and their life stories, then yes, often they do inspire me. I love meeting new people and, like most writers, I'm always curious about what makes or made them who they are. But their writing doesn't give me material as such, no. Writers have to find their own obsessions to write about, and my passion for Hungarian ballet probably isn't your passion for example!
For me the answer really is: I teach because 1/ I have something to share with other writers, and 2/ it's fun. Teaching children can be the most fun of all, but that's a blog for another day. Young writers can teach us oldies so much about writing.
Yours in writing,
PS The best writing talk I've ever heard was given by Patrick Ness who told the audience to 'write with joy'. If he's in Dublin again soon, check him out! He's a remarkable speaker.