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Why I started writing this stuff

Updated on December 29, 2011

My first blog post

As I am preparing to have my first book published in about a week or so, I was reminded of this first blog post that I wrote on the spur of the moment about two and a half years ago. In many ways, it still sums up many of my thoughts about this whole writing process. It also gives me a sense of gratification. Getting a book done has taken longer than I thought, and the subject matter has shifted away from the original concept somewhat, but I have managed to follow through on this crazy idea that came to me while cleaning house:

August 17, 2009

Yesterday, I decided to begin the semi-annual cleaning of our home office. In addition to all of the layers of dust that had accumulated, we had finally managed to fill up all of the space on the bookshelves and in our file drawers. So I decided that it was finally time to clear the file drawers of papers that I had not looked at for years and was unlikely to ever read in the future. These consisted of class notes and papers that were sometimes more than twenty years old, coming from classes that I had taken as both a graduate and undergraduate student.

While going through all of this stuff and chucking a lot of old class notes, I was struck by a couple of things. The first was that I apparently did a lot of hard work at times during my college career, and somewhere along the line I was able to become a good student. I also read several papers that I had written in various classes and rediscovered the fact that I was actually a pretty good writer. It also struck me that on some level, I actually enjoyed the whole process of creation way back when. The main thing that I did not like about college was the pressure of that constantly lingering deadline. To this day, the stress of that due date or upcoming mid-term has left me with little desire to enter a college class once again as a student. The older I get, in fact, the less desire I have to ever go back to school. I guess that I have reached a point where I feel that I have no need for school. If I want to learn something, I will go out and find a book or run a Google search. What do I need a teacher and all of those annoying assignments for?

The problem is that my current job no longer requires me to do some of the more difficult tasks that I was forced to do as a student. I have not, for instance, written anything of any significant length in years. The only things that I seem to write these days are e-mails, Facebook posts, power point outlines (most of which are already written), test questions, occasional handouts, and even more occasional cover letters for full-time teaching positions which come up every few years or so. Those skills that I developed as a student, then, are no longer being utilized.

At this point in my life, it is very tempting to just sit back and enjoy the fruits of my past labor. My teaching skills have developed to where I can more or less walk in to class, ask students where we left off, and proceed to teach a three-hour class with only my rough power point outline as a guide. I will then have plenty of time to hang out with my family, improve my racquetball game, keep up with the Lakers, fulfill my monthly allotment of music downloads, maintain my scrabble skills, and keep people informed about these daily activities by keeping that Facebook status updated. Why would I ever again choose to struggle with the incredibly difficult activity of writing?

It is very easy for a teacher to stop being a student, and in some sense I feel that this has happened to me. I don’t read as much as I would like, and I barely write anything at all. The curse of going to school, I guess, was also a blessing; school keeps you accountable, and it forces you to do things that are difficult. Teaching can also keep you accountable to a certain degree. You have to show up to class, take attendance – we still do that in community college – keep up on the grading, stay somewhat up to date on current events, read as much History material as you can, and touch up that power point outline every once in a while. Most of these activities, however, do not require that much in the way of higher level thinking skills, and with the exception of those already written outlines, they do not require the act of creation. In other words, they are relatively easy, much easier than a lot of the stuff I did as a student.

Do not get me wrong, I am not arguing that teaching community college is easy.

Those early years getting the material straight in my own mind and fine-tuning the presentations were very difficult. But after nine years of community college, and the previous, much more difficult task of dealing with junior high and high school students for seven years, my teaching skills are pretty well honed. I am obviously not perfect. There is always more material to learn and fine tuning to be done, but I can do a pretty good job for the next thirty or forty years – the retirement pension, after all, may dry up in the future – with a limited amount of effort.

So now what? I have had this sense for some time that something was missing, and I needed to find some way to mentally push myself. And as I thought about writing once again, ideas for what I could write quickly began to flood my brain. After all, these years of teaching experience must be worth something, and the most basic thing I have learned about education is that the only way to learn to educate is go out and do it. Why not keep a journal of some of the struggles I have faced and insights I have gained from doing this for so many years? If nothing else, it could be therapeutic for me. And given the fact that community colleges and universities are filled with average, every day adjunct instructors like me, maybe these “freeway flyers” can have one of their own sharing his stories and insights. Book writing seems to be monopolized by so-called experts, which is not entirely a bad thing, but maybe we should balance things out with the thoughts of a Cal State graduate like me without a PHD next to his name. After all, people like me are actually out there on the front lines teaching a large percentage of the students who take general education courses at the college level. Or maybe I will just write a bunch of stuff that sits on my flash drive, waiting for me to dig it up twenty years from now.


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    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Congratulations on the book. :) I liked this Hub a lot. I liked reading about the trajectory of your life and teaching and for a while there, "not-writing" and now writing again. Very interesting. I look forward to reading more of your work in the future. I am SHARING this with others.

      Some of my Hubs are about teaching and some are based on my research focus - Nazi concentration camps.

    • Freeway Flyer profile image

      Paul Swendson 6 years ago

      Thanks everybody. And good luck to you Debbie.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 6 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      wow..CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU ON THE BOOK.. I have my first book of poems hitting this week.. plus two book fiction books soon.

      It is amazing.. I know you are so proud.and you should be because like you said it is a lot of work. It is fun and so much goes with it.

      Congratulations again

      I voted up and awesome

      Happy New Year debbie

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Oh many congratulations on finishing the book and getting it published. That is a feat in itself! Look at the thousands of people who have the wonderful intention of writing a book and never even get past the first paragraph? This is a great achievement and wish you every success!

      Your hub in general is a very interesting one and yes, you are a good writer, so keep the hubs coming!

      Great hub + voted up!

    • CMHypno profile image

      CMHypno 6 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      Congratulations on getting your first book published Freeway Flyer. I hope that it proves to be very successful, and that people get a lot out of reading it.

    • Freeway Flyer profile image

      Paul Swendson 6 years ago

      Thank you both for your consistent encouragement. I will publish a hub of the introductory essay when it gets published next week. It will be available in printed and ebook form.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 6 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      Best wishes for the success of the book. I am sure there will be plenty of valuable insights in it, as there have always been in your articles.

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 6 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Congratulations on the book, F.F.! I will be sure to get a copy. What you say makes a lot of sense. I think that the only way a teacher can be good is if he is humble before his students, if you, yourself, are always engaged in the process of learning, not resting on your laurels, as you got yourself out of doing!

      The process you underwent of -- let me make up a word -- re-studentizing (I just made up the word 're-studentizing')-- yourself, by writing a book, you have, no doubt, made yourself a better teacher for it. I suppose this is why, for the PhDs they have that 'publish or perish' unwritten rule (Is it written or unwritten; and is it still a rule?).

      Anyhoo... good hub.

      Take it easy.