Don’t Write Alone | Writing Life

After I Left Teaching, the Best Writing Lesson Came from My Students

As part of our Education Week series, Purnima Mani reflects on her career as a teacher—and which lessons stayed with her when she quit to write full-time.

It’s 9:49 a.m. on a Friday in December and I’m at my kitchen table, glaring at the cursor on a blank Google doc. The deadline of my latest assignment is looming. But like so many of the students I’ve taught over the years, I’m paralyzed, unable to get a single word on the page. In my head, I start composing an apology email to my editor, inspired by some of the more creative excuses I’ve received from adolescents. “Sorry I don’t have a first draft for you to look at today. I thought I had a great essay idea, but turns out, jkjk. An extension could help, but might also make no difference. I still think you’re cool.”

Plusyou’re not doing any writing of your own right now, but helping others do it could be the perfect plan B.