by Yuly Restrepo
January 27, 2021
As a writing teacher, one of my biggest challenges is to find the time and energy to dedicate to my art, particularly in the middle of the semester, when my grading duties begin to intensify. I teach four courses in the fall semester, which makes the grading process in particular especially draining. Many times, it becomes very hard for me to muster the energy to sit down in front of the computer and look at my own writing when during the week I’ve been reading 80 student essays. In fact, many times I don’t get a lot of personal writing done during that semester.
But my situation isn’t unique. In fact, I think this is the contemporary life of most artists. We have to juggle the need for financial stability with our desire to make art, which is why grants such as these are such a crucial part of keeping the arts alive and thriving. Personally, this grant allowed me to forego teaching in the winter session, so that I could dedicate my school break to working on my novel, and having that time has been invaluable.
Something else that has done wonders for my productivity, as far as my own writing goes, has been my writing group. It was convened by some of my colleagues a couple of years ago with the goal of keeping us connected with our research and writing goals, even with our heavy teaching loads. This group has also been invaluable for me. Before COVID hit, we aimed to get together once a week for a couple of hours at a coffeeshop or colleague’s house. Pets were welcome, when we were in someone’s home. Everyone was free to do reading, research, or writing in whatever structure they desired, and we took spontaneous breaks to run thoughts by the group, chat about the day’s news, or have a snack. We also shared and workshopped work. For me, the group was a source of companionship, encouragement, feedback, and friendship. It also had a great impact on my productivity as a writer. In fact, the entirety of the last three pieces I’ve published was written during writing group.
Of course, now that gatherings are not a good idea, we haven’t been having our traditional meetings, but we still check on each other and keep each other accountable. Having said that, I can’t wait until I can get together with my friends again.