My brother was honored on Friday for his 40 years on the faculty at Tennessee State University. That’s 35 more years than he originally intended.
When Donald finished his PhD in Communications and accepted the job at Tennessee State, he told me he planned to teach for five years and then he’d try something different—perhaps producing documentary films—for the next five. He expected to change positions every five years or so because he wanted to be challenged and keep learning.
Thursday night I reminded him of his five-year plan, and he laughed. He said there was always something new to learn right where he was. He teaches television production classes, and the technology is constantly changing, so maybe that was what he meant. But it was clear from the reflections and comments from colleagues and former students that Donald couldn’t have stagnated if he had tried. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he mentors new faculty and is everybody’s student advisor, whether assigned or not.
I am going to use Donald’s experience to make a point about writing, but first I’ll take a short detour to post a picture of all the family members who attended. My children couldn’t make it, but my brother Gordon’s family were all there, as were my cousin Gail and her granddaughter and great-grandson.
Now back to the original itinerary.
I’ve never wanted to stagnate, either, and that’s as true of writing as it was of law. My original attempts at fiction were okay, and I wouldn’t be embarrassed if they were published. But every subsequent book has been better. And that’s the lesson for writers. There is always something new to learn.
So if the next book isn’t better than the last one, hit the refresh button.