Back to reading Updike. As if I need the heartbreak. Picking up in 1961. Updike’s 29. He’s finishing up The Centaur and has just finished a summer teaching creative writing at Harvard. He was a pretty good teacher. He liked it. Liked his students. At the end of the gig he vowed to never do it again.
Twenty years later he told an interviewer why.
“Teaching takes a lot of energy. It uses somehow the very brain cells that you should be writing with.”
This would have been about the time I was changing my headings from playwriting to fiction and working out how to set my course for Iowa. I wish I’d come across it and taken the warning. You’d think three years later I’d have figured it out for myself when I was teaching my own summer writing workshop. But I wrote like a demon that summer in that light and airy apartment below yours and Donna’s on Dubuque Street, at the most perfect desk for writing I’ve ever had, under the window with no view except into the leaves and branches of tree I never identified because it was only beginning to dawn on me trees came in more than maple and pine, in that light. I wrote a novella that I knew was no good but I didn’t care. I was having a ball.
So it wasn’t until I was teaching at Ball State that I figured it out.
But unlike Updike I kept at it.
Because the New Yorker wasn’t begging me for stories and paying me a couple thousand dollars a pop.
Which should’ve been a clue.