The Teaching Trap

Jun 25, 2021   ◦   ~ 600 words / 3 minutes   ◦   thoughts navel gazing craft

Reports vary on the number of successful full-time indie authors. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of 'em. Why is that?

Because it’s really, really hard work. It’s self-employment, pure and simple. You have to do it all. Writing, design, marketing, sales, inventory, janitorial.

In my digital travels, I’ve noticed many indie authors supplement (or maybe it’s the bulk of) their income as writing teachers. Books, YouTube channels, apps, all kinds of stuff. I’m not knocking it. More power to you guys. I’ve even learned some interesting things from these sources.

Hell, we all like to talk shop. I’m no different. But here’s my deal: I want to tell stories. I want to write and maybe occasionally draw pieces of fiction that are satisfying time wasters. Perhaps one day, if I’m lucky, I’ll be good enough to write something that’s more than enjoyable escapist fiction. But if not, that’s fine too. Escapism is why I read fiction. That’s what I’m looking for: A few hours of fun away from this shitty world of ours.1

Perhaps the old adage2 “Those who can’t do, teach” may be less about competency and more about availability3. You can teach, or you can do, but you won’t have time to both well.

Once you start down the teaching path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you, it will… I think that’s what Yoda was talking about, right?

I’m sure there are exceptions. You can put your pitchforks down. (Geez, guys. You’re so touchy.) I just think I’m not one of the exceptions.

That having been said…4 Nothing seems to clarify one’s own thoughts like having to verbalize them.

I think it was the brilliant Weird Al who said:

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

Or maybe it was that other, less famous, Al… Einstein, I think it was.

Well, whoever said it, it’s definitely true. That’s why it’s so helpful to talk about complex designs with coworkers. Because having to arrange your thoughts in such a way as to concisely convey them in words (spoken or written) helps you to clarify your own understanding.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve discussed a particularly hairy bit of logic I needed to code and had the solution pop into my head mid-sentence.

So I will be posting some entries on this here blog 'o mine that may sound like I’m trying to teach fiction writing. You can be assured I’m not. Maybe after I’ve written a dozen more books, I’ll feel confident enough to take that kind of stance.

What I will be doing is using these blog posts as sounding boards, as a way to clarify my thoughts on stories, storytelling, and things of that nature.

Maybe you will have your own thoughts about it. And that’s great. That’s what the comments box or twitter are for. Feel free to chime in.


  1. Which is why I’ll never deride genre fiction.

    You know the funny part about genre fiction? The part that snobs hate?

    Genre is where the money is. Most people don’t have the patience for flourished prose and pointless meandering stories. What I like to call Masturbatory Fiction. The authors are pleasing themselves, trying to impress everyone with their vocabularies. If they want to do that, they should be writing poetry. [END OF FOOTNOTE RANT] ↩︎

  2. Maybe it’s not an adage. An expression? Commentary? Sick burn? ↩︎

  3. A more accurate statement would be: Those who can’t do, critique. ↩︎

  4. I think “That having been said…” should be the name of my blog. ↩︎