“I lay down my roots / summer came and went / I looked to the sun”

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Some Thoughts on Teaching at MIT touches on so many of the thoughts I’ve had about writing.

That writing is a long-term endeavor, and as such, very much about endurance:

I tend to believe that toughness is really important if you are going to be a successful writer. What you need to write is the ability to not get knocked out. You need to be able to take brutal critique and tolerate awful people. But more than that, you need the physical courage to look at a blank screen, and write.

(Well, except for the awful people part. I’ve found writing both MG/YA and SF/fantasy to involve far more wonderful people than not.)

That learning to write, like learning anything else, involves learning curves, and learning curves involve the willingness to suck at what you do before you get good at it:

The old adage is true–writing is rewriting. But it takes a kind of courage to confront your own awfulness (and you will be awful) and realize that, if you sleep on it, you can come back and bang at the thing some more, and it will be less awful.

And most of all, that the humanities and sciences aren’t on opposite sides of some mystical divide that can never be crossed, but that they share common ground and even inform one another:

People think that teaching at a science and engineering school means you’ll be faced with a group of awful writers … In some ways, I felt that the rigor of math had better prepared these kids for the rigor of writing. One of my students insisted that whereas in math, you could practice and get better, in writing you either “had it” or you didn’t. I told her that writing was more like math then she suspected.

You can read the full article here. (Thanks, Kathy, for the link!)

Header lyrics from Antje Duvekot’s “Phoenix.”

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