[NCTE-TALK:2367] Re: should writing teachers write?

Tue, 16 Jan 1996 09:43:14 -0600

Dear friends,

I have been following this with some interest and finally decided I had
something to contribute. I am a filmmaker and began "serious" writing
because I had to. I had written my own journals for years and found it
helped me think through and understand things. But as a filmmaker I was
forced to communicate my ideas in written form before a film was made. I had
to raise money. It was a chore I hated. I hated asking for money to do what
was obviously important and good work and I hated having to communicate by
writing what was (also obviously) an ineffable act - filmmaking. How could I
describe a documentary as a finished idea when it would be discovered and
created in the *editing* process?

I eventually learned.

And I also learned that this writing was very useful to me. My ideas became
clearer and my work became better. I knew, better, what I was seeking in my
documentaries. Though that goal might change in the course of an interview -
and certainly would change and shift as the film was born through the editing
- the preliminary writing was a very useful act for me.

Now I write for the same reasons and for pleasure, as well. I also write
screeenplays - which is some mixture of work and pleasure.

As someone who advocates media literacy and actual production of media in the
classroom, I find parallels between media teachers and writing teachers in
this discussion. I have never felt that a teacher "teaching" media in a
classroom had to be an expert filmmaker. However, I think such a teacher
does need to discover, with her or his students, the process of making media.
She or he cannot help students discover what they need, without her or his
own growing understanding. And that only comes about through practice,
combined with the theorey. Again, this does not mean that the teacher must
go out and maker his or her own documentaries or fiction films - just that
she or he becomes a better teacher of media production when participating as
a practicioner, also.

There are many parallels between writing and media production as a creative
and technical act. I drew inspiration and comfort from Annie Dillard's book,
"The Writing Life." I saw how her descriptions of writing related to my own
experiences of writing and other acts of authenic, original, "making." I
have yet to make a anything without coming to a point where I think what I
am making is the greatest work of its kind, followed by the utter
devastation of knowing I am a complete fraud. The work I am doing is flawed,
too frustrating, a sham. These feelings, I have learned, are to be ignored.
They go away. I get through this to complete the project.

A photographer friend of mine, Wendy Ewald, lent me Rilke's "Letters to a
Young Poet," some twenty years ago as we both struggled in our own ways with
the act of "making." This was also an inspiriational text for me - though it
concerns writing directly.

Best wishes to you all,

Andy Garrison