Why I Teach Writing

I teach writing as a business. But unlike Michael Corleone in The Godfather, my business is strictly personal. And unlike Michael's father, Don Corleone—who did business with Hyman Roth but never trusted him—my business is based on mutual trust between teacher and student.

Creativity, in its purest form, is personal expression—art that flows from the place deep inside where your essence resides, the crucible where your unique characteristics, experiences, and perspectives cohere to form your view of the world and the voice you use to share it. While we all know how to assemble words to form sentences and paragraphs, most of us are uncomfortable tapping into our personal creative source. If you're a writer-in-waiting, you've probably justified your waiting with at least one and perhaps several of these rationalizations:

  • I have nothing to say.

  • No one cares what I think.

  • I don't have any interesting stories to tell.

  • My secrets are too shameful to share.

  • I don't like being vulnerable.

  • I'm not a good writer.

These excuses, or self-deceptions, have the power to hold you back, but only if you give them that power, only if you cede your voice to the voice inside your head repeating these lies, the voice Steven Pressfield calls "the resistance."

The core of my teaching is not the elements of craft (though these are important, and I do cover them). It is enabling you—yes, you, the one hesitating right now—to silence the false voice filling you with doubt and listen to the true one that will free you to create from your heart. Creativity honors the personal, and that's why trust is so critical. You not only have to trust your true voice but also trust that you are writing in a safe environment where your voice will be heard and respected, your courage will be applauded, and your creative effort never criticized and always celebrated. This does not mean you won't receive suggestions on how to improve. My job as a teacher is to help you grow and become a better writer. But you will never feel that anything you've written is not good enough—only not as good as what you're capable of achieving.

The pleasure of unlocking your creative self, of freeing it from the fear-shackles that keep it captive in the prison of silence, is immensely enjoyable and intensely fulfilling. You may have experienced this feeling—perhaps during a childhood performance, a moment of clarity when you spoke your mind, or any time you felt safe enough to be open, honest, vulnerable, and real. It felt scary, but it felt good—the trembling anticipation, the jolt of electricity when you began, the thrill of revealing yourself, and the cathartic relief of finishing. I teach because I want you to be able to feel this joy on a regular basis, to find your thrill, and to delight in freeing the beauty that lives inside you and sharing it with the world. "Me, share my what?" you might reflexively say. But come on, you know it's in there...

So ultimately, I teach writing to empower people. Not just because it feels good to be empowered. But because we need more empowered people, more empowered artists in the world. We need more artists unafraid to speak the deeper truths not found in any compendium of facts, trite advice column, or well-researched article on Wikipedia but discovered where beauty lives, in the clear stream of consciousness that flows through your spirit, the fertile soil that nourishes your individuality, and the bright fire of imagination that burns in your dreams.

Come write with me!