“A writer will do anything to avoid the act of writing.” – On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction.
Author William Zinsser knows me well; the blinking cursor of a white computer screen infuses dread. What am I going to say in my lecture tomorrow? I open my email, check my calendar, get a drink of water, scan the newsfeed—anything to avoid the act of writing. The fear of writing trash paralyzes me. But I know I have to confront the monster of writer’s block, precisely because I am a teacher of Legionaries studying humanities, and my lecture tomorrow is on writing.
I write, erase, think, edit, rewrite, revise. I ask myself: why do I spend so much time preparing class? But after four hours of lonely office work, I feel proud and confident enough to face the brothers. I now have the main tenets of my Creative Writing course clear: Writing is not a magical inspiration of the muse, but rather a craft that must be mastered by hard work. Writing is about knowing what you want to say (clarity) and then saying it (simplicity). A clear sentence is no accident, says Zinsser. Respect your reader, and choose your words well. Most importantly, we learn to write by writing. So sit down, brothers, and vanquish that blank page!
I can demand this of them because I’ve done it first. I can demand it because I know them. I don’t just teach them; I guide them in their academic life. I accompany them through the explosive intellectual development of two years of humanities. How can I study more efficiently? Which books should I read? What is the purpose of Renaissance art? I deal with many questions like these. I try to open their horizons to all that God wants to give them in heart and mind. I strive to imbue them with a vision of the intellectual depth which their mission demands. And it gives me great joy to dedicate myself to this mission on my internship.
Internship is a period (2-3 years) of Legionary formation after philosophy studies in which the young religious learns the art of apostolate by… doing apostolate. It’s like what I tell my class: learn to write by writing. You have to go out there and do it. Now, few of my fellow classmates on internship are teachers. Some help form Legionaries (like me), others work in schools, a few help raising funds, many work with boys in ECYD clubs and retreats, and all of us live with Legionary priests and learn from them to shepherd souls to Christ. We’re all trying to acquire the practical experience—the right tools—we’ll need for the priesthood.
Still, I like to think that my job’s the best. I think so because I help form Legionaries who in turn evangelize the world through preaching, praying, penning. And that’s why I prepare my class well.