A few years ago, I remember Teenage Nephew 2 pointed out (from his newly gathered storehouse of driver’s ed wisdom) that I put my hands in the wrong positions on the steering wheel. The new placement, he told me, is either 9 and 3 or 8 and 4 on the clock face, to avoid breaking your arms if the airbag deploys.
It’s been a while since I’ve been in driver’s ed (in fact, to a teenage brain I’m sure it was so long ago that Teenage Nephew imagines my training included dinosaur-avoidance tactics), so I took it on faith that he was right.
And I was reminded all over again how much you can learn as a teacher if you are willing to once again become a student.
A couple of years ago, when the novel I was trying to write had completely stalled out, I decided to take a writing class. Although I learn enormous amounts from my students when I teach writing, it had been a long time since I’d sat in a writing class and not been the one in the room who was supposed to have all of the answers.
And my teacher — mystery writer Ellen Hart, who is a generous and gifted writing teacher — gave us an assignment that for me turned out to be exactly the key I needed to turn on my writing again. She had us write ﬁve completely different opening sentences for our story, and then go on to write three completely different opening paragraphs. I was about halfway through the exercise when an unexpected voice marched onto the page, commandeered my storyline, and took over the novel until I ﬁnished it several months later.
I honestly don’t know if that ever would have happened if I hadn’t been willing to become the student again. So this post is for those of you who in some way or another have come to be labeled a writing “expert”: give yourself permission to relearn the basics. It’s a necessary periodic refresher for writers. And it’s incredibly valuable if you’re a writing teacher; there’s nothing like being a student again to remind you what good teaching — and good writing — is and isn’t.
There are a lot of options in the whole big car lot full of shiny “learn more about writing” options that are out there. Why not seek out the thing that you most need to jumpstart yourself?