Tuesday, October 7, 2014

3 Lessons from My Teaching Career that Prepared Me to be a Writer by Marissa Shrock

When I utter the words, “I teach middle school,” I experience gasps, head shakes, and wows from people who can’t imagine working with twelve, thirteen, and fourteen-year-olds. Teaching these students is enjoyable for me—on most days— so I’ve spent eleven years teaching seventh grade language arts.

When I began writing, I realized some lessons I’ve learned from the teaching profession can also be applied to my writing career.
  1. Just teach. (Or just write.)

    Teachers have a lot coming at them every day. Grading papers, attending meetings, answering emails and phone calls, planning lessons, and wringing hands over standardized test scores are part of the job. There are times to address these issues and times to let them go and do what’s most important—teaching students.

    Just as teachers do more than teach, writers do more than write. We’re expected to blog, to promote, and to connect on social media. We must do these activities, but often it’s time to sit down and just write stories that will entertain our readers.
  2. Embrace your brand.

    Every year I hope my students will remember what I teach them about plot or character. Or that they’ll retain my inspirational lessons on participles and infinitives. However, what sticks with them long term is not what I teach, but who I am. I’ve heard I’m a nice teacher (Whew!) who is known for her clothes, hair, and the kind of car she drives.

    I never planned that. However, I shouldn’t be surprised. I remember my seventh grade language arts teacher for her quirky stories and for the way she clicked her fingernails.

    My students decided my brand as a teacher, and I accept that. I hope my readers will decide my brand as a writer and my ideas will resonate with them in ways I never imagined because I put pieces of myself into my stories.
  3. Set boundaries.

    When I started teaching, I made a rule: No school work on weekends. Because of all the expectations for teachers, it’s easy for the job to be life-consuming. Sometimes I walk out of my classroom on a Friday and leave a gigantic stack of essays. (I always hope the grading fairy will take care of them, but she never does.)

    I have to keep the same perspective in my writing career. I do most of my writing on weekends, but I often force myself to take a break and shop, bake, or play golf. Usually I return to my computer refreshed, and the ideas come more quickly.
Many of us have other careers prior to becoming writers, and these experiences can provide valuable preparation. Just teaching (or writing), embracing my brand, and setting boundaries are three of the most worthwhile lessons I’ve learned from teaching.

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Writers do more than write. 
Lessons from teaching can also be applied to my writing career.
Embrace your brand. 

What have you learned from your "day job?" We'd love to hear any advice you have that helps you as you write, promote or edit. Be sure to leave a comment!

The First Principle
In the futuristic United Regions of North America, sixteen-year-old Vivica Wilkins never questions her country’s pregnancy termination law for underage girls until she becomes pregnant. Now she must comply or fight to save her unborn child. But fighting means Vivica must abandon her mother, a powerful governor, and side with the Emancipation Warriors, a rebel organization that’s determined to start a revolution.

About Marissa Shrock
Marissa Shrock is language arts teacher who enjoys working with her seventh grade students. Her young adult novel, The First Principle, will debut in January 2015 from Kregel Publications.

She graduated from Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, and has completed the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Apprentice, Journeyman, and Craftsman courses. Marissa is a member of ACFW.

She lives in Indiana and loves shopping for cute clothes, baking for family and friends, traveling to new places, and playing golf.

Connect with Marissa
Website - http://www.marissashrock.com/
Twitter - @MarissaShrock
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/marissa.shrock.writer