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Words Matter: A Story Starter

If you are like me, and I’m not assuming that you ARE, you’ve read–at some point in your life–a self-help style book about finding your “calling” or identifying the “work you were made to do”. All fine things, really: There is a lot to be said for doing work that brings you joy and helps you identify as a part of something bigger than yourself.

Inevitably, the self-help folks have you do something like this: close your eyes and imagine the PERFECT day. What would you do during that day? What can you do, to earn a living and feed your kids and pay down your mortgage, that would incorporate your most beloved activities into your profession?

Well. I happen to know my answer to these questions. It isn’t news to me, or anyone who knows me. I love writing. I love the process. I love talking about it. I love studying how other writers “pull it off” and thinking about what that means to my own work. I love reading the works of other writers and helping them reach toward the next level of mastery. I love being wrapped up in words and fighting my way out of blind corners and beating my head against the figurative brick wall of writer’s block…

So, as I’m closing in on the completion of my MFA, I begin to contemplate how I will use the degree. There are the immediate and ongoing benefits I have enjoyed: more consistent, higher quality writing, day in and day out. And then, there is that something more that many of us hope for: making a few dollars, paying a few bills, recouping some return on the investment.

I went in to the MFA process with no misunderstanding: the amount of money, time, and effort it takes to get an advanced degree in Creative Writing will be–except in very rare circumstances–disproportionate to the tangible benefits the post-MFA student will reap. I knew that going in; I’m okay with that. But, many of us close our eyes and dream of writing in a way that makes a few dollars, adds to the cash flow, begins, just begins, to offset the financial burden we’ve place on our families.

With that in mind, I have been contemplating ways to “make a go of it” as a writing instructor, both in traditional educational settings, and beyond. There are two beliefs that are driving me:

  1. Words Matter.

  2. People of all ages, backgrounds, and circumstances have something to say, and I can help them learn how to say it in ways that will speak to those with ears to listen.

I’ve begun to put together plans for offering creative writing instruction, both locally in the Sarasota-Bradenton (and Greater Tampa Bay) area, and online. I believe there are people out there who want some of the benefits of formal instruction (accountability, deadlines, feedback, individual attention) without the costs and commitment associated with a full-time (or, even, low-residency) college-level writing program.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the coming months may bring.

What is my perfect day, you ask? I spend some time with coffee and my own writing in the morning, I finalize some plans for teaching over lunch, I work on correspondence and networking in the afternoon, I spend time teaching and providing feedback to other writers in the evening, and I take a little more time, at the end of the day, to work on my own writing. THAT to me, is pretty close to perfect.

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