Garth Greenwell (whom I consider truly virtuosic -- and virtuosity (even without heart) is something I can admire for its own sake, regardless) writes in the last issue of Brick Mag about leaving the academy and the influence of high school teaching on his writing:"Real growth for a writer, I tell my students, happens outside of the workshop, and it has nothing to do with the trappings of a career. To be a better writer requires finding a way to care about things more deeply and more broadly, to become more interested in the world, to observe it more finely. This awareness of my own affective embeddedness in the world is what allowed me to become a novelist. The gift of those years of teaching was the discovery of a feeling I had never suspected in myself before, a capacity for urgent and disinterested—I’m tempted to say novelistic—love."
Also echoing parts of an old conversation with the Young Historian, who says about sabbaticals: "I think the immense luxury of belonging to Harvard while also being able to leave its physical space has enabled me to think more about thinking with my heart, adding more care to whatever intelligence I possess."
That we are skilled, brilliant even, is seldom in serious doubt even when our neuroticism persuades us otherwise; we've had too long been cultivated to (and validated in) that belief; the work of applying care and sensitivity to our intellect is, however, an ongoing work I'm trying to keep in my focus, and in my personal life too.