I recently came across a post by John Vorhaus at Writer Unboxed. When he mentioned his upcoming workshop at the Courtyard by Marriott in Old Town Pasadena, I wrote to him right away. Not only is John from the San Gabriel Valley, he's also a prolific author and an experienced writing teacher. Please welcome today's guest author, John Vorhaus.I’ve been a writer forever. Then one day I became a teacher of writers, and the very next morning woke up with a big headache, because somebody told me, “Those who can’t do, teach,” and that made me feel sad. But then I asked myself, well, why do I teach? The answer was simple: I teach because it helps me learn; whenever there’s something I want to understand better, I try to find someone to pay me to teach it. I’ve done that with writing, public speaking, poker, even mime, and I’ve found it a very effective life strategy; I commend it to your attention.
I also teach, though, because it helps other people (mimes, writers, poker players, what-have-you) and I seem to get a great deal of pleasure out of helping. The joke I tell on myself is, “Don’t thank me, I define myself through service.” But John Wesley Harding says, “Your jokes will become your reality,” so I guess mine has.
Still, though, "Those who can't do, teach," what do I do with that? For one thing, I can look at my body of work and say, "Hey, now, that's just not true." After all, I've written more than a dozen books, including novels (The California Roll, The Albuquerque Turkey), writing books (The Comic Toolbox, Creativity Rules) and many, many books on poker. So you can't say I'm not entirely a "can't-do" guy. But even if I were, so what? I happen to think I'm a pretty darn good teacher, in that I can communicate instruction clearly and helpfully, I care about my students and wish to see them improve, and I have a passion for the work. With all of this in mind, I've managed to kill the ugly little ogre of, "Those who can't do, teach," and replace him with a much friendlier, cuddlier motto:
"Those who can do, do both."
Which brings me by roundabout means to my upcoming workshop, Living the Writer’s Life (August 13 in Pasadena). Like all my writing classes, it's designed to help writers close the gap between where they are in their writing lives and where they want to be. We'll cover a lot of global writing issues related to the practice of writing, and also lots of nuts/bolts stuff like killing writer's block, building great characters, and creating stories from scratch. So come along if you want to have a day's worth of writing fun and be a better writer when you're done.
But that's not the point of this post. Really, it isn't. Because whether you come to my workshop or not, I have your attention now, and thus the chance to speak to you directly. So let me say this: If you're a writer, keep writing. If you have any artistic or creative passion, keep chasing it. Win or lose – best-seller or no seller – chasing your passion is the number one way to make your life rise. The number two way is teaching, so you might try your hand at that. Because those who can do, do both.
And – take it from me – teachers always learn.
John Vorhaus resides in cyberspace at johnvorhaus.com and tweets, for no apparent reason, @TrueFactBarFact. Stop by and say hi.