In 2012, I made the scary but right decision to leave traditional classroom teaching behind in favor of my writing career and creative spirit’s survival. I realized my gifts and labor accomplished more and reached more people when it flowed into arts and entertainment products, as opposed to individuals in a class; the subjects of English and Writing are required in all schools and colleges, so the great proportion of my students had no particular interests in my general passions let alone my esoteric ones. And I was not finishing any writing in full. I decided the only way I wanted to be a teacher was by special invitation from a college or university to educate others’ on black women’s cultural work or creative writing, or exclusively online for a handful of literary and artistic fanatics just like me.
I am so happy I found an opportunity through The Eckleburg Workshops to teach online starting July 5, 2015, in a combination writing/life skills course called “The Spirit of Writing.” I posted the mini-class here on Negression last Fall. The course is meant to draw people like I used to be: a buried creator and bustled imaginer the world was worse off without. Hopefully, I will get some folks typing every single day. My story goes to show it really is true you have to set the bar for what you want specifically and how it fits with who you really are, and it will come to you.
I taught because I always had, since I walked into the college work study office as a Freshman and found out I could be a teacher’s assistant in neighborhood elementary schools as a community service. Schools are like churches for me. I walk into one or step on a campus, and feel restored. Being a stellar student all my life and fitting into that world made me the successful young woman I became. The “smart girl” in school was my identity in my birthplace, family and social circles. After just two years working after college, I missed school and the self-actualization it provided. I went to work on my M.F.A. in New York City. I chose The New School because the classes were at night and I could work all day. I could be a working adult, but still a student in my comfort zone.
At the start of my literary debut in 2005 with my first published novel Upstate, my M.F.A. thesis work, the time probably came for me to leave classrooms behind in order to explore my other offerings to the fullest. But I ran back to my hometown’s community college to teach. I soon after returned to my alma mater to study in an English PhD program because the survival of black women’s writing and culture is critical to me. I wanted to be part of the academy to contribute to that in a formal and official capacity, hopefully teaching other minority students who wanted the classes I had been unable to find in college. While I was no slouch for working on a doctorate of English at University of Chicago and getting a master’s from it, I wondered how much I really needed to be there and how much I was escaping something else.
When I could have been maximizing the opportunity afforded by my rather fortunate book advances and publishing credibility, I was buried in homework and racing to class on time as either a student or a teacher. When that period of my life ended, I was so far away from the “me” who had been a natural imaginer and compulsive writer I did not even have an author website up anymore. As I crashed-landed from the abrupt change, I wrote every day- but it was not good fiction or drama. I had to learn to shape that again. It hit me that life after school for any authentically creative artist entails becoming a business owner as well- which schools shelter gifted, imaginative people to avoid. I would have to become that while providing my own shelter for my imagination, and protecting it.
Fear of being full-force, open and vulnerable in the world as a lone woman who creates had been the impetus behind my cling to the collective of the classroom, probably second only to my Christian upbringing and liberal schooling, which molded me to always give back to the less fortunate or pull others up to where you make it to. This fear had stifled the full manifestation of my creative power and writing spirit until I could barely find both. Once I found them again or they found me, another fear came along: to continue my life as a writer I needed to fracture my creative spirit into an entrepreneurial one as well. I could not run back to schools, as a teacher or a student, for shelter until I became smarter in the backend business of creativity.
In 2012 I decided I only had time, life and mind for one path: writing and creating. Teaching had to be second. I decided when I was satisfied with what I had accomplished and stockpiled there, I would explore teaching again. And I did. Oddly enough, it was my literary career and not my teaching one which afforded me support to get back to my novel, stories and theatre work. The little surprises I would get from my literary agency or my creative communities came as confirmation of what I needed to be doing.
For two years nearly I spent most of my days with my mind and my books and my computer, and I learned how I could work with others outside traditional classrooms or jobs. On this blog, I started writing and investigating the same subjects and interests I did for doctoral studies. I joined a writers workshop and women writers business league. Despite having two novels published, it was my first experience with the “full-time” writer thing and it feels so much less lonely than I always thought it would. Now, it’s exciting to show others how to get to this place in a way that fits with my writing life and forever teacher spirit.
To work with Kalisha on re-establishing your writing practice and resurrecting your creative spirit, register for the first session of Kalisha’s course “Spirit of Writing,” at The Eckleburg Workshops. Space is very limited. Cost is $110 per person. Prepare to finalize 2 prose works or novel chapters. She will begin teaching a new course the first Sunday of every month. The course begins July 5th.