There are times when people really and truly should write, and those times are not always completely concerned with writing for money. The motivation may be (somewhat) about money, but the end result can be priceless and transcend money.
I have felt much in tune with these non-financial factors in my capacity as writing teacher as well as that of writing judge.
In the first case, I have been allowed into the lives of students through their essays, and have learned what they are coping with, what they have learned from, and what they are aiming for. Sometimes the goal a writer describes is something as insignificant as being happy to go to work. Everything my students write tends to impact and inspire me. This is useful writing, from student to teacher. Though I take advantage of these opportunities, to demonstrate where an apostrophe shouldn’t go (as on every single –s) or where a semicolon needs to be replaced by a comma, or vice versa–knowledge I excel at after teaching it for a decade and a half–these essays inspire me in their content and spirit.
One young lady who has followed me from English 252 to English 125 confessed that she put a happy face on her Facebook Wall disclosure that she worked with her sister. In reality, she was not as happy as the happy face indicated. In fact, she wrote, she had been hiding a bad attitude about her job. As a young college-attending mother of a baby, all she really could think of was whether she had expressed sufficient milk and if she would pass her classes. The last thing she wanted to do was log eight hours a day in an office with her sister (who was kind enough to insist upon employing her).
Her essay resonated with me deeply because I have been guilty of harboring a bad attitude–not always, but at times–about my own job, which is to teach composition (grammar, punctuation, essay form and critical thinking) to college level students. Naturally I would rather be an acclaimed author. Honestly, sometimes I wonder how stupid I could possibly be.
This same young lady explained that she has started changing her attitude. She finds that filing or any other mundane duty she has had to be nagged to accomplish is becoming something she takes pride in, thanks to her change in perspective.
Her words resonate. I won’t say she changed me, because I was already changing. When I get into someone else’s writing and forget myself, forget where or who I am, and think about someone else’s day, family or life, that is profound. This has always been one of the pluses of being a writing teacher.
This past summer, for the second time but to a far greater extent, I participated likewise as a writing judge. While many of the books I read were similar to each other, just as student essays can sometimes be, there were absolutely unique entries. Some of these entries were by writers whose lives had been so different or unexpected, who were so brave or whose thoughts were so profound, that again I was seized wholly. When I say I forgot myself, I do not mean there were no thoughts or life parallels that did not resonate–there were plenty. Those were the vibrations in words (even if beset by grammatical errors) that linked me to the writers.
Writing does that. It links humanity, make us one and gives us a sense of communion. It used to happen in letters, although these have gone by the wayside. Such bonding still most often happens in writing. Social gatherings, though useful, are liable to ostentation, discrimination or other weaknesses that may prevent noble human interchange.
This kind of writing–the kind that will probably not make anyone rich–is very important, whether it comes from students or aspiring writers who have churned out a first “masterpiece.”
Tonight I feel lucky and blessed, to be a reader who both teaches and judges writing.