My mission as a teacher is to help you create and appreciate well-crafted words in a variety of genres, to develop solid time-tested skills as a writer and to share your work in a dynamic writing community. It is an irony of my class that it is both easy to do well and difficult to sustain through the ups and downs of a busy year. I expect a lot. I give a lot. I expect you to give damn about what we do, and I expect you to figure out how to do what I require you to do. Do what I ask and do it with an honest and sustained effort and you will not only do extremely well, but you will also become a much better, a more insightful, more confident and more willing writer and reader. I will measure you more by what you try to do than what you do.
I have never had a student come back to me years later and lament the time and effort he or she put into my classes—either at Fenn or in my workshops outside of Fenn, if only because the ability to put your thoughts into powerful words is a skill that will be tested and needed throughout your life, and the time spent now is time well spent, and the rewards are real and palpable and incredibly useful. Likewise, learning to appreciate great literature—stuff that has inspired, consoled, enlightened and energised generations of readers will always be a sustaining source of energy and wisdom in your lives.
But only if you give a damn—and that is something that can only come from you, day in and day out.
The very nature of words is a constantly evolving paradigm. A system that served one generation may well not serve the current generation or the next generation. When I first started teaching English, I simply considered words to be ink spread on a page; whereas, now words are spread on websites, chatrooms, blogs, songs, podcasts, videos, emails, presentations, and discussion threads, but in every situation where words are required the essential skills of the writer have been the same for hundreds—if not thousands—of years. I have changed. The power of words has not.
It is these skills we will study, emulate, and practice. It is in enduring literature where we will look for guidance and inspiration. It is with each other that we will share our work, comment on each other’s works and learn to live, think, and act like true writers. This requires trust. Trust in me and trust in you. No one is born a writer, though it may seem like someone else writes better than you. In the same way, I am sure there are better soccer players than you, better runners than you, better musicians than you, or better actors than you, but that doesn’t stop you—or it should not stop you—from doing what it takes to become better at what you love or what you feel you want to become.
Simply put: writing is something you can and should put in front of the cart of life. Well-written and well spoken words will open the doors and widen the paths you take through life. Henry David Thoreau, a local Concord author, once wrote: “You can’t kill time without wounding eternity.” Wise words, but only if you live them—only if you can grasp that time needs be lived fully in every moment of life, not in half-hearted and dull responses to the opportunities that are within your reach at this very moment. My earnest hope is that I can give you opportunities that are worth embracing, worth doing and worth the effort to embrace with your mind and heart and soul and being, and at the end of this year you can honestly say, “I gave a damn and did not wound eternity by killing the time given to me just for being alive at this moment in this good and nurturing place.”
So welcome to Fitz English.
Give a damn and figure it out.