I now have quite a few writing students that I teach individually. None of them are working on similar projects, either. So each student requires a whole different mindset from me, as well as concentration, creative brainpower. In fact, each student requires that I come to the table with an entirely different universe, basically -- one aimed totally at each of them.
I am enjoying the process so much. And even though sometimes my voice gives out from having to talk so much (especially with the students I see in the evenings), I find that I don't run out of energy. There is something about this type of creative interaction that brings its own vitality along with it.
I think that if I were teaching in a classroom, though, especially if it were an assigned course that students had to take in order to graduate, the energy would be ridiculously different. Then, it probably would exhaust me. Plus, I don't think I would enjoy being forced to teach a specific curriculum. It is so different when a student comes to me with a project they want to work on that means a lot to them. A whole different set of brainwaves is going on!
The best part of teaching, though, is when you see the tangible, undeniable proof that your student has transformed and has become what he or she was truly meant to be: A writer. All my adult life, I have worked with writers who were already writing and publishing, or on the verge of getting published. Teaching has awarded me that unique experience of actually seeing someone who was born to write -- who I can tell was born to write -- embrace that about themselves and truly become a writer.
Of course, it also makes me feel a little old. Specifically with any students who are a lot younger than me. Mostly I want to tell them, "Believe in yourself." I want to drill it into them, in fact. Believe in yourself. And don't worry about the critics who will be coming. Don't let the criticism hold you back or cause you to doubt yourself or cause you to feel confused about who you are. You have stories you were born to tell and that is the only thing that matters. (I do actually tell my students this.)
I had one student the other day who was on the verge of tears, overwhelmed by the amount of work that was going to be involved in writing her life story, and in everything that was at stake. She was already fearing the nameless/faceless critics who were going to judge her. She was even considering killing herself.
For some reason, many writers are like this -- myself included (with two suicide attempts behind me). Many of us can become suicidal if we feel there is no support for the stories we feel compelled to tell, or that the stories are not going to get out.
At that moment, I was grateful that I am as old as I am, that I have so many positive and negative experiences behind me that I can draw from -- including the suicide of a close colleague last year, a truly gifted writer himself who felt his story was over. Without hesitation, I was able to tell my student point blank: "God gave you a story to tell. If you choose to kill yourself, you're saying that it's okay for your voice to be silenced. It's okay that your story doesn't get told. How do you feel about that?"
It made her stop. Literally, it stopped all her thought processes and she realized she not only didn't want her voice silenced; she also didn't want to be the one choosing to silence it. (And in this case, "it" means the story God gave her to tell.)
We all want our stories to be told. Ideally, we also want them to be appreciated. But it is also my experience that once our stories are told, there is always someone somewhere who is grateful you told it. Let's keep that in mind today!!
[Mrs. Lewis at work...]
About Marilyn Jaye
Causes Marilyn Jaye Lewis Supports
The Film Council of Greater Columbus, Columbus, OH
The Adrienne Shelley Foundation, NY, NY
Paralyzed Veterans of America, Washington, DC...