Tricks of the Sentence Trade

There are teachers who write and writers who teach; we are separate species. I’m a writer who teaches, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about my day job. It means it’s a job, not my life’s passion. It’s an interesting job for a writer, too, since I’m helping college freshmen learn tricks of the sentence trade.

I would not advise any writer who must make her own living to become a teacher. I’ve had many jobs (retail, restaurant, secretary) and every single one of them offered more free time to write than teaching does. Despite June, July & August. When I taught full time (and to support yourself, you must teach full time, probably summer, too) I wrote a book every summer. When I took time off teaching just to write, I read my summer books with horrified eyes before throwing them away. They weren’t even worth revising.

I know of a few full time teachers who manage to write decent books in their spare time. Top notch mystery writer Amanda Cross is the pseudonym of a (now deceased) professor. Then there’s Eloise James, who’s still raising children while writing Regency romances and teaching Shakespeare. So it can be done, just not by me.

So why do it? Except for writing, teaching is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. I enjoy the challenge of it. But to do it well, I spend precious hours preparing lessons when I could be writing a novel. In fact, I didn’t write at all last week, the first week of classes. I am hoping things settle down and I’ll be able to work on an almost completed draft, but I’m not counting on it.

And that’s okay, because this winter I’ll  be writing instead of teaching. I am able to do this because my dean is very good to her adjunct faculty and because my husband has an excellent job. Also, both my kids are out of college and have really great jobs of their own.

If you’re a writer and you need a day job, I’d say choose anything but teaching. But if you’re a writer and you don’t have to foot all the bills yourself, becoming an adjunct at a college in your area is a nice option. And they are always hiring.

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