I spent 9 years teaching in my own classroom. It’s a rewarding career, but so very challenging. I signed my first book contract in December 2011. Since then, being an author has also been rewarding, but you know what I’ve realized since my book hit the cyber shelves? Being a writer is a lot like being a teacher.
In both jobs, you have a lot of disappointment. Teachers must deal with difficult children and/or parents and administrative requirements. Writers must deal with rejections and bad reviews.
In both jobs, the pay doesn’t really reflect the work we do. Teachers spend hours outside of school preparing and planning lessons. Many teachers work part time during the year or work during the summer. Writers spend hours outside of actually writing. We have promo work to do and I’m learning how amazingly overwhelming that can be! Now, some authors can say they make beaucoup bucks, but the majority don’t. Many writers still hold down day jobs to pay bills.
Both jobs are definitely 24/7. I used to drive around my city on errands and see something that would remind me of my students. I would create an activity for an individual student who was having trouble or I might create a game for the entire class in hopes of exciting them to read or write. Teachers often get home at night and pull out papers to grade while they watch TV.
I also have come up with some awesome plot points while driving around. A simple thing like a police siren once led me to an entire plot for a full-length manuscript. I, as a writer, often have my laptop while I sit on the couch watching one of my favorite shows. I now get up 15 minutes to a half an hour earlier each work day so I can check or send emails that have to do with my books. (And anyone who knows me knows what a sacrifice this is. I HATE mornings!)
There are, of course, many positives too. In both jobs you have many pleasant surprises. A student or parent might bring a teacher a treat to thank her. A student might make a card or poster for you. (I had a rough start to one day last week and a boy walked up and handed me a poster he’d made for me and two pens with flowers made out of colored duct tape on the ends.) When a student “gets it”, there’s no better feeling. In much the same way, writers get that feeling when people say they loved the book. (I’m still giggling when people say that to me!) Writers might get awards or letters from readers that truly touch the heart. Making a best-seller list or readers’ choice list is much like getting nominated for Teacher of the Year.
And the biggest similarity between writing and teaching? People who aren’t teachers or writers have no idea how much blood, sweat or tears we shed for each student and each book. But that’s okay. We teachers keep teaching so we can help shape the future. And we writers keep writing so we can help people escape their own lives if only for a few hours. Why? It’s what we do.