Judy Reeves: "I write because I love the language." Photo: Erik Jepsen, UC San Diego
Editor’s note: Judy Reeves, a published author and UC San Diego Extension instructor since 1999, values the dual crafts of writing and teaching as her life's essentials. Her daily routine is not only what she does, but who she is.
Through the years, Reeves has been an Extension instructor for a total of 62 writing courses — and counting, though she's taking this quarter off. While the subjects she teaches vary, she holds true to one overriding tenet: “You can teach the basics of the craft,” she says. “But the passion has to come from deep inside.”
Here are some of her reflections:
“I don’t know if anyone can really give a reasonable explanation for why they write. I write because I love the language. I like the way words fall against one another to create images. And from that, feelings arise, along with memories and dreams and possibilities.
“I love putting words together to make sentences and paragraphs. Luckily, I found out early on (in 3rd grade) that I loved writing sentences and playing with language. I’ve been doing it ever since.”
“I’ve heard many stories of kids who used to play school when they were young, and they were always the teacher. As a little girl, I never played school and I never thought of being a teacher – because I always knew I’d be a writer.
“Somewhere in my late 30s and early 40s, I found myself standing in front of groups of people, telling them how to do things based on what I’d learned and experienced myself.
“The more I did these presentations, the more I loved it. And the more I loved it, the more I connected with people and their stories. It’s this connection that makes teaching so rewarding for me. I love the spontaneity of working live in the classroom or with groups. It’s always about what we create together.”
On writing as a discipline:
“As writers, like other artists and creative people, we are easily seduced by our work. The creative process really can cast a spell. We forget to eat, forget to sleep, forget to move our bodies; we become isolated and self-centered – because the work becomes everything.
“I think we forget we’re merely human – physical beings in a physical world, fragile and susceptible to all manner of ills, of the body as well as the spirit.
On the gift of creativity:
“Our creativity is a gift, whether it’s writing, visual art, dance, music, cooking a delicious meal, crafting a beautiful vase, building a cabinet, decorating a lovely room – and these creative gifts are meant to be shared.”
On the importance of writing every day:
“If we don’t write every day – or at least five days a wee k – we lose touch with our writing muscles. Our imagination goes brittle, our words hide out. As a result, we feel bad about ourselves, maybe a little guilty, embarrassed or ashamed. So my advice is simple: Write every day, even if only for 10 or 15 minutes. Then give it half an hour. Who knows what can happen?”