I've finished my writing classes in Tunbridge Wells for the summer now, so last night I invited a mixture of students, local artists, writers and friends over for a drink and a reading. You can tell this particular reader is a Sarah because of her tiara. I would like to say I made her wear it, but I've come to terms with the fact I've never had a student yet doesn't do exactly what they want to do and hang my futile attempts at instilling an air of fear and authority.
From the emails I've had - and even the honour of it being a beautiful thing - other people enjoyed last night's 'soiree' nearly as much as I did. But it also made me think a lot because I've always considered my teaching as a way of funding my writing. But suddenly last night, as I listened to the readings and the conversations going on and remembering some of the exercises we'd all done together, I realised just how important teaching has become for me. It is a privilege to work with other peoples' writing and to share the energy of committed writers creating something together. I could never be one of those writers who live hermit-style, communicating only with the page. I need to be engaged somehow with the world. My challenge now is to keep the balance between engaging and writing. One nice thing about the kind of teaching I do is that it's not continuous. I get breaks like now - from July to September - in which to revitalise, think of new ideas, and get ready to start again. To this end, because I've got some exciting teaching prospects coming along, and a connected even more exciting project I'm working on, Clare and I have been sorting through my very very messy piles of teaching notes together.
And slowly, slowly, it's all coming together. I like to think of myself as a creative type who doesn't mind mess but I know now that's not the case. I like order. No, I LOVE order. I crave it. It lets me have the space to think of new ideas. Mind you, I've just spent the last five minutes stroking my new Clare-organised files.
No wonder she wears a tiara. She might not be a Sarah but she's the queen of the alpabeticised system. My only gripe is that she says I've got to learn how to use them myself because she's not going to move in and live with me but, hey, I have a tiara too (and mine's pink). I CAN do it.