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My Hard-Working Students

I’ve just had an email from a student to say that she is wrestling with her revision, the clock is ticking, no pen to paper yet (an anachronistic image?) and her submission is due on Wednesday. I’ve forgotten where she works—advertising I think—and know that she is not able, right now, to write full-time; she has a job, she is supporting herself which, in itself, is an achievement these days. Though the economy seems to be improving, many of my students in the past two years, have either been out of work, headed for grad school as an alternative to looking for employment, or been laid off in the middle of the term. How to keep writing under so much pressure? Clearly, it’s not easy.

The workshop is a peaceful oasis where ideas can surface unimpeded by the challenges of daily life. But despite the calm ambiance, many students arrive amped-up, eager to get as much out of the class as possible, or unable to shake off the demands of their strenuous day. One is a doctor, another a lawyer, another in IT, one is a widow, another about to get married. They all come to my class for the same reason: They have something to say and are burning to say it. My job is to help them get there.

I do my best with the tools and experience I’ve accumulated after many years of teaching and writing. Most of the time, my students leave the workshop gratified that they can envision a writing life, but I can’t do much about what happens outside the classroom except to say: Take it easy. Go for a walk. Bring your notebook with you. Sit under a tree and write, or don’t write. Just daydream, meditate, leave your smart phone at home, don’t cram your days with appointments. Most things can wait. Even a submission to the workshop can wait. Watch the birds and the sunset. Feel the wind. Get away from your obligations. Get inside yourself. Writing is a solitary, quiet place.
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