Teaching and the Writing Life


Here I am in my office at Bath Spa University, and in the background, you can just see my office mate; the performance poet Lucy English. I also share the office with poet Carrie Etter and novelist Celia Brayfield.¬†¬†They’re all wonderful writers, teachers and friends…it gets quite silly in here on the infrequent days when we’re all in.

Like us, most writers also do other paid work. And like us, many writers teach as that paid work. Not all of them should. My colleagues and I put our hearts and our souls into the work we do with developing writers. We constantly try and improve our modules and our delivery. We keep in touch with students long after graduation (it’s my chief way of making new friends), and we are delighted with our students’ successes.

Even if I didn’t ‘have’ to teach, I would. I get so much from it. I’m always being made to think properly about what good writing is, issues of craft, issues of ethics and morality. I’m always discovering something new about form. I’m always learning in class…far more than my students are learning from me (though, when I tell them that, they never believe it).

But more than this, I live in a world where writing is valued. I don’t have to explain to my colleagues about my writing life. ‘How’s it going?’ we say, by the photocopier. And the answer is always about our latest writing projects. Writing is ‘it’ to us; the Alpha and the Omega – the whole of the thing of life. Some of my colleagues are being shortlisted for the highest prizes in the literary world. Some of my adjunct colleagues are just starting out; just placing stories and poems. That doesn’t matter to us that much. We all know what does matter to us that much.

The craft.

By the way, another Thursday has come and gone and I’ve still got Hospital High… I’m still making it better, you see. When I can’t do that any more, I’ll send it. That’s the craft, too…