The Famous Author Who Said Teaching Was “Exhausting And Depressing”
I don’t know much about the personal lives of authors whose books I’ve read. I think Stephen King was hit by a car once. I think Charles Bukowski drank a little bit. I believe James Patterson (whose books I don’t read) has a bunch of co-authors, so he might have a lot of spare time, but I don’t know what he does with it. The point is, I just read the books (and samples of the books). I don’t know anything about the authors.
Yesterday I found out the JRR Tolkien (author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) taught at several colleges while he wrote. I think I might have known that at some point in my life, but I found out again yesterday. An old colleague of his found an old letter that Tolkien had written to him, and in this letter Tolkien said that teaching was “exhausting and depressing.”
It’s a nice feeling to find old letters that I’d forgotten about. Every once in a while, an old card or letter will fall out of one my old books. I usually lose bookmarks, so I use cards and letters instead, and when I don’t finish a book (it happens a lot), the card or note stays in there for years, and I end up losing the card or letter instead of losing a bookmark. But I’ve never found a letter from JRR Tolkien. If I had, it would have made not finishing all of those books worth it.
Anyway, in this newly-found letter, Tolkien said that he thought teaching was “exhausting and depressing,” which I think is kind of funny because he taught college kids. If he thinks teaching college is “exhausting and depressing,” he should have tried public schools. I’m not a teacher, but I have two kids in public schools, and I can tell you that I want nothing to do with teaching.
I can understand why teaching is exhausting and depressing (and I’ve never even been a teacher). Most teachers have to convince a bunch of kids to do stuff they don’t want to do, and you can’t fire the kids if they don’t do their job. If you get the wrong batch of kids and you have to see them day after day, that could get exhausting and depressing. And that’s before the teacher gets to grading the essays. That’s probably a whole new level of exhausting and depressing.
Supposedly, JRR Tolkien wrote the opening sentence of The Hobbit while he was grading papers. If I were a former student, and I found out that my teacher/professor/instructor wrote a bestselling book while he was supposed to be grading my essay, I’d be pissed. I worked hard on my essay, and my teacher wrote a novel while he was supposed to be concentrating on grading essays? Well, at least Tolkien wrote a decent book.
I wonder how Tolkien graded his essays while he was writing his books. Was he an easy grader when he was writing, or did he get grumpier and then take it out on his students? I wonder how his students inspired him to write. I wonder if he ever knew that his book The Hobbit became required reading in some schools. How would Tolkien have felt reading student essays analyzing character development in The Lord of the Rings?
JRR Tolkien was teaching before I was even born, so if he thought teaching was “exhaustive and depressing” back then, think about how “exhausting and depressing” it is now. Except I don’t know if teaching conditions are worse now. People say today’s kids are lazier and more disrespectful than ever, but I don’t know. I remember a lot of lazy kids when I was a kid, and that was before they started smoking illegal substances. After they started smoking illegal substances, they really got lazy.
I used to be jealous of teachers during the summer because they’d have all day to write while I was still stuck in an office (but at least there aren’t any kids in it). However, if teachers are exhausted and depressed for nine or ten months every year, it might not be worth it (from a writing perspective). I can’t write if I’m exhausted and/or depressed. I just stare at the computer screen. I guess when JRR Tolkien was exhausted and depressed, he wrote about hobbits and orcs, and created histories for worlds that don’t exist.
It must be weird to find out that your (former) teacher/instructor/professor is now famous. One day you’re making fun of the teacher’s clothes, and then you find out the teacher is a bestselling author, and suddenly the clothes don’t matter. Stephen King was a teacher (though I think he was Mr. Bachmann, I’m not sure). Bill O’Reilly was a teacher (man, I bet THAT was a fun classroom). Even Sting (not really an author) was a teacher, but Sting is into tantric sex, and nobody wants to think about a former teacher having tantric sex, even if he’s Sting.
Do you have a teacher who turned out to be famous? Can you write when you’re exhausted and depressed? Should authors who are teachers write books while they’re supposed to be grading papers? If you’re a teacher, is it exhausting and depressing? If you’re not a teacher, does the idea of it exhaust and depress you?
When I was a kid, I was punished for saying the word crap. Looking back, it kind of ticks me off because now I know…
And here is the true story of my one moment of high school glory!