This Is A Writer

Sarah Ruthven is a colleague of mine in MCC’s Art Department who first joined in on our Summer 2016 writing group. She is one of the group’s academic writers and brings diversity to our updates. She’s also the person who first introduced me to curriculum mapping in a faculty development workshop I attended back in 2008, and for that, I will be forever grateful. (I bet you’re thrilled with how you’ve changed my teaching life, aren’t you, Sarah?)

This is a guest post from Sarah Ruthven, a member of this winter’s Online Writing Group:

I am a writer.

My first time through graduate school I did not think this about myself. Despite the fact that for two years I wrote paper after paper culminating in a rather long master’s thesis, I did not think of myself as a writer. When I decided to go back to graduate school again, my biggest fear was that I had not been writing and I was sure my skills had become rusty.


I took another picture of my writing space, minus the laundry basket but it felt like a lie. I am a writer and mom; there is always a basket of laundry somewhere.

When I became a full-time faculty member, I thought I would read all the time and write, publish even. But then the reality of teaching set in and I just never found a writing groove; I wasn’t a writer anyway. In my eleven years as a faculty member I wrote numerous Action Team Declarations, draft after draft of contract language, and a million letters. But still, I just didn’t see myself as a writer.

But something clicked in graduate school the second time around. I started to see it when I wrote to my classmates in discussion boards and when I would hit the page length on a paper, realizing I still had things to write, ideas to get out. Then I joined the summer writing group. I had seen the invitation to join before but I wasn’t a writer then. Things were different, I was different.

I read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. She recounts her struggles when writing, and I saw those same struggles in my process. Holy shit, I had something in common with Anne Lamott, other than a significant amount of unexpected swearing. But of course we have something in common: we are both writers.

Whether it is swagger or efficacy, something about really seeing myself as a writer has changed the way I write. I am forty-eight pages into a sixty-page paper that will be finished in exactly eighteen days. I sit down to write and struggle. Writers do that. But I don’t stop, I try again. Writers do that, too.

I want to write more after graduate school is done. And while I will likely spend a semester reading everything Nora Roberts has ever written just to take a small break after two and a half years of graduate school, I will not stop being a writer. My work flow will just need to change so that I can teach and write. I am not sure how I will do this, but I have never felt so confident that I will find a way to make that happen.

For my thesis I am writing about the photobook Events Ashore by An-My Le, and recently went to see Moholy-Nagy: Future Present at the Art Institute of Chicago just before it closed. These are the things that I feel so strongly about I had to write about them. They helped me realize I am a writer.

Sarah at the museum

Me at the museum


Thanks, Sarah! If you’re writing — writing anything — then you’re a writer. Embrace it. Give yourself a high-five. And now, get back to work.



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