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Why Do So Many Writers Want to Teach Writing?

Disclaimer: this is not about MFA programs as a whole. I have never attended an MFA program, I cannot speak with any authority about MFA programs, and I have many, many friends who are fine writers and fine teachers who have attended MFA programs. Some of my friends are fabulous teachers, instructors, professors, the kind of teachers who inspire generations of students to greater and higher things. My mother is a teacher, so I know exactly what thankless hard work it is and how talented you have to be in many different arenas. This is not a blanket statement, a rant, or an attempt to start a flame war. It’s just an honest question and a curiosity about a program I’m not very familiar with and am constantly confused by.

Okay, so now to the meat of the question. M. Kitchell had a great post on HTMLGiant yesterday about writing outside MFA programs. His post made me think about something I’d been pondering a lot lately. I’ve been watching and listening to many of my friends as they graduate or prepare to graduate from MFA programs and stress about finding jobs. Or even people who are currently on the tenure track or are adjuncts or whatever and are stressing about changing jobs or getting tenure or more permanent employment.  And I have a question: why does it seem that for so many MFA graduates, the only job that they seek is the job of teaching writing?

Why don’t more MFA grads seek writing-related jobs outside of teaching? I went to school for theatre, and I knew many friends in art programs and music programs–and in our classes of students, only a handful would go on to teach in a university setting. Most people would take other jobs related to, or perhaps not at all related to, their chosen artistic discipline. In fact, in my program, our professors pounded into our heads constantly that we should not expect to find jobs as actors, that we needed to have other options, that we would always have some other job because that is how loving art and practicing art works. They also pounded into our heads that there are very few jobs for teaching in theatre programs, and that we should not expect to get those, either–that in fact it would probably be harder to get those than to make a living as an actor.

And indeed, most of my arts friends, including myself, are currently holding jobs that have nothing to do with academics and mostly we pay the bills through jobs that have nothing to do with art. Which is neither good nor bad; it is what it is. Many painters don’t want to teach painting. Many musicians don’t want to teach music. Many actors don’t want to teach acting. Many filmmakers don’t want to teach filmmaking. The musicians and painters and actors and filmmakersI know aren’t complaining, or at least not anymore than is usual. Waiting tables or working a desk job or making sandwiches is what you do. They still consider themselves artists, despite the fact that art doesn’t pay the bills. Maybe even because art doesn’t pay the bills.

Which leads me to ask why so many writers only feel like they’re writers if they’re being paid to write or teaching other people to write? Is this something unique about writers and their psyche, or is it something that MFA programs foster? Are MFA programs churning out new generations of teachers to grow and multiply and sustain a creative writing system that keeps getting bigger and bigger despite the fact that demand for literary fiction has not substantially increased?

And how many MFA students are not just qualified to teach, but talented teachers, natural teachers–the kind of people who would teach no matter what because they were born to do so? If they felt more secure about themselves as writers even if they weren’t teaching, would more talented writers take positions in other fields, maybe writing or maybe using other talents and coming home at night and on weekends to write instead? How much more varied and interesting might writing even be, in that case?

I’m sure people will see this as a smackdown on MFAs from someone who doesn’t have one. It’s not. I think MFA programs are great, and have sure turned out a lot of amazing writers, presses, magazines, and yes, fantastically talented writing teachers. But I do wonder if these programs are, intentionally or unintentionally, creating a weird little universe of self-sustainability that denies the rest of us the benefits of great writers in the regular work-world, and that pushes people who are not really gifted teachers into a profession they otherwise would not seek to join. And if  that doesn’t hurt the many writers who really want to teach and because of the glut in the market either can’t find a job or end up teaching for minimum wage with no health care.

What do you guys think? Am I crazy? Off base? As an outsider, do I see more clearly or is my vision all screwed up? Set me straight, peeps.

  • Amber Sparks's work has been featured or is forthcoming in various places, including New York Tyrant, Unsaid, Gargoyle, Annalemma and PANK. She is also the fiction editor at Emprise Review, and lives in Washington, DC with a husband and two beasts.

45 thoughts on “Why Do So Many Writers Want to Teach Writing?

  1. i don’t have an mfa and don’t really want one and i don’t teach and don’t really want to, but when i have considered these things, my tic marks in the pro column went something like, ‘what i want to do is write but the chances are good that will make me poor, so what’s the closest approximation to writing? teaching writing.’ what i’ve actually done is take the fairly parallel path of ‘writing freelance is a close approximation of writing.’ and anyway i’m still poor.

    oh, and in my experience the teaching thing w painters et al is about the same as it is w writers.

    1. Good comments, Joseph. And I did have some especially…A.D.D. friends who were all studying art. They may not have been typical of art students at large.

      I wonder, too, if maybe we just don’t HEAR about all the people writing and NOT teaching, without an MFA–because they are not as networked or maybe aren’t part of writers’ communities because they don’t consider that to be a thing that they are? I don’t know–just throwing it out there.

  2. One thing that comes to mind is there are far more opportunities to teach writing — not necessarily creative writing — than there are painting, theater, etc. because most colleges and universities have required composition courses. So there are lots of folks with MFAs teaching those, either as adjuncts or full time (including me), and it’s relatively easy to make a “living” teaching writing of one kind or another, if not exclusively the kind of writing you prefer. And perhaps once you’re accustomed to that, after starting as a grad student, and if you enjoy teaching, it’s preferable to keep at it and hope one day to teach only creative writing (if that’s your goal) than to do something else. I don’t think other fields, without required undergraduate classes, produce the same illusion of abundant positions, hence perhaps the difference.

    1. That’s true–and I kind of forgot about comp which is obviously huge and a vast majority of what you profs are teaching. And if you love teaching (and I know you do, Steve) more power to you. But that does explain a bit of the difference, certainly.

  3. Great post. I’ve often wondered the same thing. I think jobs (shit jobs especially) that have nothing to do with writing or struggling writers inspire the best writing material.

    1. So true. I mean, I sure understand the need for economic security and to sort of secure oneself in the womb of the university and all of that–I’ve been sorely tempted at times–but I’m also very glad that I have a career totally separate from my writing life. It keeps me balanced and gives me all kinds of stuff to write about. One area where I feel like this is really apparent: books about professors and academia. That is so unspeakably boring to me, and I’m sure to the vast majority of people who don’t work in academia. There are certainly exceptions (Stoner, for example) but dear god, please stop writing about writers who write and teach, people. It’s even worse than writing about writers.

      1. Agreed. No more stories about creative writing professors and students, please! I do understand the desire to remain within a community of writers, and the access to grants and funding and small publishers, but I think there are many other ways to remain within that community nowadays outside of an MFA program nowadays, especially via the online world.

            1. Greg, THAT would be my cup of academic tea. I didn’t know that’s what the Tunnel was about. I should have been a historian, really–but that’s a whole other blog post. Or book. :)

  4. I’ve been to school long enough to realize that at some point, teaching skills don’t count in the balance and only academic results do. It was Comparative Lit and not creative writing, but still. A teacher that can’t teach, but who writes better papers than me is of no use to me. You could have Hemingway teaching a writing class, if he can’t teach to save his life, I’m not interested.

    1. And this problem is not confined to the writing world, either. I got my MA in politics and had some professors who’d run winning presidential campaigns but couldn’t teach for squat. Their classes were worse than worthless, because their success and their inability to communicate it made the class feel like this was some magical skill that we would never “get.”

      1. For the most part, I understand this point. But in reality? I heard Borges was a terrible teacher. I’d still cut off my left pinkie to have studied with him when I was young. I needed idols- and meeting them was even better.

        1. That’s a good point. Sometimes you just need the glow to rub off on you a little. Inspire you, maybe. I’d say it’s probably more important in the arts than in, say, politics.

  5. For me, Amber, it’s my love of writing. I basically was in several workshops and online communities where we talked a lot about writing, the craft of it, the methods of submitting, how to succeed, all of that. We read a lot and talked about books a lot. So teaching seemed like the natural progression.

    It’s weird for me though, as I’m a bit older (43) and am just finishing up my MFA. I’m questioning whether I should have instead tried to get a teaching certificate so I could teach in high schools instead of universities. The market is BRUTAL. I’m discouraged. But, with one book out, 40+ stories out, and a 2nd book being shopped, I am hopeful that I can find a gig teaching somewhere.

    I’ve only taught adult education classes, Creative Writing Basics. I love it. I feel like I had a lot to share, and that I’ve helped my students to be better writers.

    BUT, I do think that MY most likely success story may not be at a university. It may be in some other teaching environment (local workshop, online classes or communities, etc.). I also make pretty good $$$ as an art director (print design in the world of advertising) so I may try to cobble together something from writing reviews, editing, publishing, and my own work (novels and stories).

    Bottom line is I love writing, and sharing that work with the world. If I can help others to become better writers, well, that’s a labor of love. We’ll see.

    1. Richard, I love this: “BUT, I do think that MY most likely success story may not be at a university. It may be in some other teaching environment (local workshop, online classes or communities, etc.).”

      There’s so much opportunity there. For instance, I learned tons of stuff from a class I took with Dave Housely online. There are lots of great writers waiting to be born out of those environments and I love that you don’t scorn the idea of teaching in those venues as well.

      1. Thanks.

        It’s kind of like sneering at online publishing or the eBook or any publication that isn’t attached to a university. If my work gets out there, if people read it and enjoy it, then I’m happy. Sure, I’d like to be in TNY or TPR, but hell, I’d like to hit the lottery too. With the ridiculous costs of school these days, more people are seeking out 2-year college for undergrad, and also trying to learn on their own. I took a few classes at the Cult, at about $300 a pop (anywhere from 4 to 6-week intensives) with people like Monica Drake, Craig Clevenger, Max Barry, and Jack Ketchum. Worth. Every. Penny. We have to think outside the box. And if people will pay me to write online (which is slowly starting to happen) or to hold a title at a press or to teach about whatever it is that I think I know, even just sharing my experiences out here in the trenches, then I’d love to do it.

        I share and teach so that others can feel the kind of fulfillment and joy that I DO when a story goes right, when you are in that zone, and then you send it out into the universe and an editor(s) snatches it up and says “THIS. This is what I’m talking about.” Seriously. It’s like a week long orgasm. Yeah, I said it. :-)

        1. Yep to all of this. And Richard, once again you win my “best attitude ever” award. Seriously, it makes me happy to read how much joy you take in all you do. Even as a giant cynic, it makes me happy.

          1. ha…believe me, i have my down days, nothing like 60 agents passing on your novel, it’s a daily kick in the nuts, but like you, my response is usually to say, “Oh yeah? WELL, here’s 10 more submissions.” It’s kind of like sales. If you keep at it, you’ll close the deal. Number game. Plus, have you hit up Duotrope lately? I know you have, you are out there as much as I am. My running list of markets, it must be 100 places easily. I even MAILED off a submission yesterday. And I HATE to do that. I’m not saying shotgun it, just random submissions, but just not giving up. You’ve broken through, you know you can do it. Do I sometimes go look at my success stories? Those acceptances at the 3%, 2%, <1% markets? SURE! If we don't push it, who will.

            Quick story. One of the things I've seen is a lot of MFA programs that aren't super supportive of their writers, nor do they encourage people to send out their work. One poet in my MFA program, I kept telling her, SEND IT OUT. She just got into PANK (print) and Anderbo.com. Very cool.

            So, that's part of it too, teaching. The ability to see the talent in young or new authors, and to push them to polish work and send it out. When they get accepted, it really creates this spark of hope, and I know I was a part of that. Sure, most of us won't get rich, hell, a lot of us may never get a good teaching gig, but there are opportunities out there.

            1. You’re right on about the support professors can give. There’s nothing more exciting than a really terrific submission coming into my inbox, and then after I read it and decide to accept it, the person tells me that their professor encouraged them to send it our way. I also love seeing my writer/teacher friends give shout-outs to their students when they’ve got a piece printed somewhere. That’s so terrific. I took a few creative writing courses in college and one horrible one in particular, the professor told us we shouldn’t send our stuff out until we’d been doing nothing but writing for at least five years. I didn’t send anything out until two years ago because of her. Which may have been for the best but didn’t say much for what she thought of our writing or the process of trying and failing.

              1. If nothing else it tests the mettle of the author. If you can’t handle submitting and getting rejected (a lot) you just won’t survive. Nobody is going to sell your work for you (as far as stories). If you can get an agent, that’s a whole different thing, and you have to be pretty huge for serious magazines and journals to come knocking on your door for short stories. Baptism by fire. Along the way, doing research, you’ll find a lot of cool literary (and not so literary) magazines and our community will grow and flourish. Or, that’s the idea, anyway.

  6. When I was getting my MA in English and Creative Writing at CCNY, almost twenty years ago, I went part-time and worked in book publishing as a foreign scout and later as a bartender, the latter a job I was much more suited for. I wanted to get an adjunct position but the politics of getting one were beyond my 24/25/26 year old abilities. I continued to work in restaurants, later again in publishing as the managing editor of a big/small press, and then I raised my children.

    I think there are many many writers who do other work or the fact that they did other work is a big part of them. Think of Donald Ray Pollock. If he’s teaching now, he deserves a break from the decades of hard labor. Teaching is great – there is nothing wrong with pursuing it. I agree with the comment about composition and the fact that, to a certain degree, everyone is expected to know how to write- we start learning how to at a young age and we use it our whole lives. This is not true of visual arts, theater arts and so on. So- more teachers or writing are needed.

    1. I’ll bet you got tons of great stories out of the bartender job. But I totally agree–if you want to teach, by all means, teach! Lord knows you’re right–we need far more people helping our society learn how to write. And people like Donald Ray Pollack, Phillip Levine–they definitely deserve the rest from hard labor and we reap the benefits of their teaching. And I’ll bet they’re great teachers.

  7. I want to teach writing because I am incapable of maintaining a real job and teaching writing is easy for me. I am not being facetious or dismissive

    1. Shaun, I believe you! I don’t think that’s an inability to maintain a real job, though. Teaching is hard work. If it comes easily to you, then you obviously have a gift for it. I’m seriously glad you’re making use of it.

  8. A big difference between writing and the examples you offer is that while teaching acting or teaching art may be personally rewarding, may help pay the bills, may get you out of the house, at the career level, teaching acting or painting doesn’t do a lick to boost your own professional prospects.

    Teaching writing, on the other hand, is career-proactive. An aspiring actor doesn’t pound the pavement and audition in front of one fellow acting-coach after another, but cracking into literary publications means passing through, guess-who, a community of writer-teachers/ student-writers. So heck yeah, moving up the ladder in that community does your own career a daily service, and that’s something I think most of us are after, chipping away at it a little each day.

    I don’t have an MFA – I’ve loaded trucks, I’ve worked in sales, I’ve tended every kind of bar from neighborhood watering-holes to slamming nightclubs. Doing those things, I had plenty of time to see a lot of shit and write an awful lot of awful, all without using the same muscles for work and art. For my own career, I’m not sure if the lack of an advanced degree will prove a downfall or an individuating factor – the story’s still a very rough work in progress.

    1. I see your point, but I’m not sure I entirely agree about having to pass through the literary gauntlet to crack literary publications. Based solely on my own experience, I was able to do that by working really hard at writing, sending a ton of stuff out, and getting a ton of rejections back, and eventually getting published in a bunch of places. I’ve also met a ton of writers who are also professors, but I’ve met them through the online writing community and not through the academic world.

      I guess it depends, though, if you mean that it can help you get published in The Paris Review or the New Yorker or get a book deal–I definitely would not know if that were true or not. I have found it pretty much impossible to get published by most MFA journals, but I think that’s more due to the kind of writing I do rather than any gatekeepers keeping me out. I think. :)

      1. I hope I didn’t imply that someone needed academic credentials to get published in literary journals (or that there’s anything untoward about the process in the first place). But I think writers want to be working toward progress in their career, and part of the allure of teaching writing is that it can open some doors and facilitate that forward progress.

        Of course that doesn’t mean it’s the one and only viable route – working really hard at writing, sending a ton of stuff out, getting a ton of rejections that’s basically my entire M.O.

        1. I don’t think you implied that, nope. I just meant that wasn’t the only route–but you obviously know that, having taken the same route I took yourself! It’s probably harder–but just as rewarding, probably more so, if you succeed, I imagine.

  9. Amber, as yet another non-MFA who has nothing going for himself but a love of writing, I read your post and M. Kitchell’s with great interest. I have asked myself the same questions, and one thought I’ve had is that maybe there is still some notion out there that, in addition to becoming a better writer and learning how to teach writing (I don’t mean to belittle MFA’s), getting an MFA also teaches you the secret handshake that allows one access to the psuedo-Masonic mysteries of the publishing world, i.e. you pay to meet the right uber-published profs who know the right power-agents who know the right cigar-smoking deskpounders at the big publishing houses. This might be an offshoot of the old romantic notion of the “writer’s life”, or it may just be a stupid perception of mine. Anyway, all I can say is thank God for the internet, for allowing the thousands of us day-job writers on our little islands to engage with the literary world in some fashion. It’s vastly increased the number of alternative, non-MFA paths to writing. I’ve thought about going MFA (although I don’t want to teach), but I put myself in the place of an MFA grad looking for work in today’s tough and glutted market, trying to pay the bills, and I’m afraid I would start to sour on writing, and that keeps me from doing it. With my current day job, all I have to bitch about is not enough writing time. I can deal with that.

    1. Joe, I agree completely with all of this. Including the last part: I’ve often thought about the MFA just as a space to write, not as a means to a teaching end–but then I think about the debt (added to my own crazy student loan debt and my husband’s crazy student loan debt) and I start to sour already. Then I just write. And go on the internet. Thank go for the internet indeed.

  10. All artistic communities create a “weird little universe of self-sustainability,” educational or not. There’s not an abundance of work out there for anyone right now; most recent MFA grads I know are looking for *anything*, not only looking for teaching jobs. Among the bonuses of adjunct work teaching writing are only having to show up to work for 10-20 hours a week and still making enough money to pay rent. With a bit of freelance you can even make loan payments. Yes, there’s prep time and grading, but you can do that in your underpants. It beats moving dirt, selling bongs, or checking IDs. It’s less tedious than writing internet ad copy or moderating comments on online obituaries. Also, many people teaching writing do so because, as Nathan said, they find it personally rewarding, which is what led them to start writing in the first place.

  11. Good question Amber. Probably because that’s how the system works. Big name writers are cash cows for Universities, they can do visiting gigs, judging gigs, get the best residencies, grants, etc. Their sphere. And smaller name writers are trying to get to be the big name writers–not all, but many.

    I agree with Richard about love of literature. That would my impetus, if I ever taught.

    I can’t help think of Wallace Stevens again. Look at what he did. There’s a poet on Fence books who works a ferry, can’t think of his name.

    On a side-note, but not so side – you hear about Stevens and (now with the letters of Beckett coming out) both Beckett and Joyce, they are all said to have not wanted to talk about writing, hardly at all. Stevens gave a few lectures with a lot of pushing and I’m pretty sure Beckett and Joyce did little or none at all. The business of writing… Orhan Pamuk gets about $50,000 for each public speaking engagement. It’s nice to be nobel.

    1. I love Wallace Stevens. If anyone is my idol, he is.

      I truly admire people who can talk about writing well. I kind of suck at it.I also truly admire people who don’t want to talk about it. It takes a lot of guts to stay silent on craft, I feel. Or at least today it does.

      On a side note too–I would love to work on a ferry.

      1. I have this image of you, Amber, commandeering a ferry with a copy of The Tunnel propped open across the steering apparatus, sneaking pagelong peeks at Gass between logging nautical miles.

        Briefly, I love teaching creative writing because it keeps my head in stories, keeps it in that pliable place where the stories are still rising, in flux, flailing a little sometimes or comatose and in need of a bit of resuscitation, but in process in some form or another–in short, like most of my stories most of the time. I’m fortunate that my students tend to be engaged, savvy, sarcastic, open-minded, and motivated, none of which hurts. It is a great excuse to have to read new things and reread older things and become more conscious of what’s working and why.

        That said, I work part-time at a psychiatric hospital and I like doing that too. In my ideal universe I spend half my time teaching and half my time doing x, where x runs the gamut.

  12. I wrote a long response to this yesterday that disappeared, so here goes again, and I’ll try not to be such a windbag (no promises).

    Steve is right, most MFAs who teach spend most of their time teaching composition and introductory lit. It’s also true of a lot of young lit. scholars, and the ones who study composition tend to go on to be administrators and herd the rest.

    Most professions are all-consuming. I wanted to be a writer before I became a teacher and I became a teacher long before I got the first glimpse of recognition as a writer. Teaching is steady work that comes with benefits. I’ve worked a lot of shit jobs and some OK jobs, and teaching is a pretty good job. When I taught high school there was no writing going on. You have to be there 5 days a week, and even though you get done before 5 PM, the psychological pressure of performing for teenagers can be pretty taxing. I can’t imagine that writing weekends would be enough for anyone, especially with the need to rest and decompress. So teaching and writing are mostly separate but they can inform each other.

    At my current gig, which is full-time non-tenure track (better than adjunct in a lot of ways, but I’ve done that too), I’m teaching 5 classes per semester. The average is 4, but at community colleges it can be 6. I was hired to be a teacher, not a scholar or a writer and so I’m not really given that extra time. My writing time comes out of my sleep, out of my time with my family, and I feel that overtime in my bones. Tenure-track writers and scholars are hired to do what they do, and so they are given that time. The reason everyone wants the tenure-track c-w job, in addition to the prestige (which is maybe only virtual), is that you are hired as a writer, you are expected to write, and given time to write.

    I have less reading time probably than other writers who don’t teach, but I can also select work I haven’t read for class at least some of the time, to keep things interesting. The best advantage of the job is that I can teach a schedule that’s all MWF or T/Th and that gives me three days per week where I can wake up and write. Most writers will prefer mornings, esp. as they get older, and most prefer some consistency, knowing that, OK tomorrow I get to write.

    I lucked into teaching a workshop because my U didn’t have a tenure-track fiction writer, which is wonderful. I’m in my element, and I love it, but it is 1/5 of my teaching load.

    Probably teaching composition is more important, because I’ve got young students who are reading critically for the first time. I’m paid OK, but mostly they owe me. I did them a favor. At any rate, it’s a different skill set. Incidentally, most of these teachers who studied literature or who got MFAs, they weren’t ever trained to teach composition. And a lot of them really don’t want to. Some of the scholars and writer who are bad teachers, they don’t really want to be doing it and aren’t willing to really put in the work. And it’s a lot of work. Repetitive work. If you can make peace with it. If you can grade horrible student essays without getting the urge to nix yourself, then it’s a job that doesn’t serve a nefarious corporation and that also gives you a fair amount of autonomy.

    OK that was windy…

    Plus, being around young people keeps you young (and shocks you daily because of these same young people – in equal measure)

    1. This is a great, thoughtful response, John. And you’re right about the tenured creative writing job–when they hire you as a writer that means they pay you to write, to attend AWP and other writing conferences, etc. That would be WONDERFUL and I see where it would be worth it. I don’t want to teach but if some fairy dropped out of the sky and offered me that job, I would find it very difficult to say no.

      And the lovely thing I’m finding out about so many of you is that you are truly passionate about teaching and exposing young people to new literature. And that could never be anything but a good thing.

    2. Though I do have to say: “I can’t imagine that writing weekends would be enough for anyone?” It has to be for most people. Me included! I wish I had more time, but I feel lucky that at least I have weekends totally free. When I had shit jobs, I was so physically tired and I worked short shifts seven days a week sometimes, so I could never focus on writing. Now I have more energy and time to focus on the weekends for writing, so it’s actually better for me in a lot of ways.

  13. Amber, first, my compliments on a thoughtful post — & one that obviously struck a resonant chord. All I can add is, first, as others here have noted (John Minichillo in particular), teaching composition is a different animal. It’s work that does good in the world.

    For many, many working Americans, the college Comp class is their first & only, repeat, *only,* chance to learn logical argument grounded in factual research. It teaches an essential skill for getting along & getting ahead. It helps teach them to read as well. To see how rare such skills are — skills Jefferson called necessary to any functioning democracy — drop by the nearby Tea Party rally.

    Second, I can say that the poet & essayist Dana Gioia has dedicated a career to the same argument. See, for instance, his essays “Can Poetry Matter?” & “Business & Poetry.”

    1. Thanks, John–I’ll have to check out those essays–his line of reason sounds intriguing. And I by no means disagree with the comp argument. Lord knows we need better writers. I work in communications and most of the people even in my field are mediocre writers at best. It’s depressing. Any offense we can muster against terrible writing is certainly worth it.

      Sent from my iPhone

  14. This is sort of tangential, but I can’t tell you how often I come across MFA students, people who I genuinely like and respect, who say they want to get a college-level teaching job when they finish, but also how much they hate teaching. I’ve been trying to figure out why (and this is many people, not just a few) someone would try to get into a field that is generally very competitive, underpaid, and incredibly demanding if they don’t love it. I wonder if it has to do with some kind of fear of not being a “real artist” if you don’t support yourself with your art or, as another commenter pointed out, the closest thing too. Plus the added benefits of getting funding for AWP, summers “off,” etc. pointed out above.

    Teaching sounds like a sweet gig, it really does, for a lot of people who simultaneously don’t want to deal with students. I wish I knew better how to understand this…

    But I’m incredibly troubled every time I hear this. The field is competitive enough without it being flooded with a bunch of people who don’t really want to do the job, and only want the perceived benefits. And, as several commenters have pointed out, teaching composition, literature, and rhetoric are incredibly important! Those students deserve someone excited about teaching, not just someone who wants their summers off.

    1. Erica, you just rewrote my post in exactly the way I should have written it. Seriously, thanks for clarifying the real concerns I have, which are so similar to your own: that so many people don’t want to teach but feel they must, crowding the field and making it harder for those who are passionate about teaching (like so many of the commenters here) to get good jobs.

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