G.W. Hawkes, creative writing

"I teach for a number of reasons. First, I’ve done what sometimes feels like everything else: reported trials in courtrooms in Hawaii, felled trees in Washington, laid pipe in Texas. Teaching is better. Second, teaching provides a steady paycheck and a gentle calendar. Students shouldn’t forget that their professors teach what they do, not only what they know. Third—considering this last distinction, professing instead of teaching—my career is a calling, a statement of purpose in every day of its doing.

"Art is taught by taking on an apprentice then guiding, encouraging, cajoling, reprimanding, shaping, instructing. The apprentice learns not only the craft, the technical skills, the kinds and shapes of the obstacles, but also the life: the early or late hours, the time and place and silence or noise when art is best achieved.

Then that artist puts the work in front of others for judgment. The workshop shapes a community learning that dishonest criticism—to say something is good when it isn’t, or isn’t when it is—is not only unhelpful, it’s harmful. To be critical without understanding the difficulties is cruel. Art teaches—in our case, through the literature track and the creative writing workshops—what our culture has determined is good and demands young artists set their own yardstick against the Canon’s. So this profession shapes not only art but the artist. What higher calling is there?"

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