Saralyn Richard is the author of A Palette for Love and Murder, and A Murder of Principal. Her most recent book is thriller Bad Blood Sisters. You can find out more about her on her website saralynrichard.com, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and see her books here.
I always wanted to be a writer, but my parents didn’t think writing was a real job, so they encouraged (read, pushed) me into a career in education. I didn’t mind, exactly. I majored in English, so I could stay as close to reading and writing as possible, while earning a living. Once I had real-live students in front of me, I fell in love with teaching, and began developing the kind of background and expertise in dealing with people and families and conflicts and problems that are the very nature of fiction.
To say I collected enough material for many thousands of stories is an understatement. I got to know hundreds of people every semester, many of them substantially different from me. I always believed that I learned as much from my students as I taught, and the adventures we had around literature, writing, and public speaking gave me many insights into human behavior.
In addition to teaching, I served as an administrator, and, later, a school improvement consultant. That work took me to a slew of different schools in many different states, expanding my exposure to regional locales, mores, cuisine, speech patterns, and more.
Once I arrived at a place in life where I could stop traveling, I was ready to commit stories to paper, and that’s when I realized that teaching isn’t all that different from writing. Here’s why:
- The people I met through the classroom are real characters. I don’t mean to imply that I’ve inserted real-live people into my fiction, but there are some qualities and characteristics that all people have, regardless of age, gender, etc., and these are what I try to capture when creating relatable characters.
- Good teaching requires knowledge of craft and lots of practice. The same can be said of writing.
- As goes the school, so goes society. Schools are microcosms of society. Within the walls are the range of human emotions and needs that drive society as a whole. A teacher who learns to handle pride, competition, anger, ambition, jealousy, fear, revenge, lust, and passion is easily transformed into an author who can write about these.
- Individualized instruction. Different students take in a particular lesson in different ways, depending on a variety of factors, such as their learning modalities, attention spans, prior knowledge, personal needs, etc. When a person picks up a book to read, he brings with him all of his background and experience, his attitudes and prejudices, his preferences and quirks. Because of that, the book a writer produces may be one story to one reader and another story to another reader.
- A teacher needs to control the environment. What better experience in creating settings?
- Discipline, discipline, discipline. The same discipline required as a backdrop for learning is needed for writing.
- Teaching is to learning as writing is to reading. Neither teaching nor writing occurs in a vacuum. You haven’t taught anything if the student didn’t learn it, and you haven’t told a story until someone has read it.
All of these things make teaching and writing challenging, but also fun and exciting. What other occupations remind you of reading and writing?