Author Bio

Ayşe Papatya BucakAyşe Papatya Bucak teaches in the MFA program at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Her writing has been published in a variety of journals, including The Kenyon Review, The Normal School, Brevity, and Creative Nonfiction. Her short fiction has been selected for the O. Henry and Pushcart Prize anthologies.

Why I Teach

posted: 2.11.14 by Ayşe Papatya Bucak

The final assignment I give my MFA students is one they often hate, to write a “Why I Write” essay.  Lately it seems the “Why I Write” has become a genre onto itself, a rite of passage for amateur and professional alike. And even a cursory reading in the genre suggests many of us write for many of the same reasons:

  1. To learn
  2. To leave the world better than we found it
  3. To be heard
  4. To give voice to the voiceless
  5. To love language
  6. To be preserved past death
  7. Because we can (a variation of which is Flannery O’Connor’s famous retort, “Because I’m good at it”)

It may seem like I’m criticizing the form, but I love these essays, including versions by Jim Harrison, Orhan Pamuk, Susan Orlean , Barry Hannah, Rick Moody; the most famous examples, by George Orwell and Joan Didion; and my personal favorite, by my former student, Kathrine Wright.

I love how these essays share the process of creation with readers, and I think at least once in their writing life, every writer should consider the question. But I suspect the reason my students are so against the assignment is they are afraid they won’t come up with a good answer.  They get defensive.  And this, it seems, is how I feel upon being asked, “Why do I teach writing.”

Why?

Why shouldn’t I!

Sometimes my students get famous! (see: “Teacher’s Pet” ). Sometimes my students get jobs! (see: “From Grad Student to Assistant Professor”). Sometimes they give much onto others! (see: “How to Make a Planet”) .

And yet periodically there is a lot of hate aimed at those of us who teach creative writing (see: “Get a Real Degree”), like we are the snake oil salesfolk of the post-modern age. And I suppose if we actually promised our students fame and riches, we would be.  But the truth is I teach writing for the same reasons I write:

  1. To learn
  2.  To leave the world better than I found it
  3. To be heard
  4. To give voice to the voiceless
  5. To love language
  6. To be preserved past death
  7. Because I can (and because I’m good at it)

The creative writing classroom is a place where students learn to give and receive critical feedback, to think past the first thought, to find language for emotion, to communicate their thoughts and beliefs and ideas to others, to really reach each other.  Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?


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