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Creators' Corner #31 - those who can, teach

John Nicholas
John Nicholas
5 min read
Creators' Corner #31 - those who can, teach
Photo of the week: perched on the 'Diving Board' following our hike up Table Mountain via Woody Ravine last weekend.

Hey everyone 👋. Greetings from Cape Town! We're up to 232 creators this week.

Thanks so much for being a subscriber. Here's the previous edition of the newsletter for those of you who missed it. As always – please reach out if you have any thoughts or ideas. I would love to hear from you.


Small talk: There are less than 6 weeks left in 2022! This year has flown by. I still have a lot of content I want to share and a few goals I want to reach. What are some goals you'd still like to achieve this year? Let's finish strong 👊.

Line-up this week:

  1. Doing vs. teaching
  2. Creating Visuals for Writing launch 🚀
  3. 30 Strategies to increase your Luck Surface Area
  4. My favourites

1. Doing vs. teaching

There's an old saying from George Bernard Shaw’s 1905 stage play Man and Superman: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."

As kids, we used this line to poke fun at teachers we didn't like. Implying that teaching was a second-best vocation. Something you resorted to if you didn’t make it in another profession.

Little did I know how mistaken I was.

Write of Passage cohort 9 came to a close two weeks ago. After taking part as a student in the previous two cohorts, I was fortunate enough to be selected as a mentor this time round. After five weeks of teaching others about my approach to writing, I have a newfound respect for teachers and lecturers. The line should be: those who can, teach.

The merits of teaching

1. Explaining something deepens your understanding

Practice beats theory. Want to learn about writing? Start writing. A course might get you going, but the best lessons will be learned from sitting down and publishing your work.

If you want to go one step further, teach others about your process. Teaching is the ultimate form of learning.

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." – Albert Einstein

Being a teacher was a gruelling, but rewarding exercise.

I wanted to do right by my students and share the lessons I've learned on my journey. I spent 8+ hours prepping for each of my lessons. I revisited old essays. I tested my ideas with sparring partners. I deconstructed my writing process to see what works and what doesn’t.

Documenting my process helped the students, but it also helped me get solid on my own principles:

  • Teaching exposes gaps in your thinking.
  • When you give advice to others, you better live up to your own standards. You need to walk the talk.

2. You have to give to receive

The lessons that resonated the most had a personal element tied to an overall concept.

In Storytelling Reframe, I spoke about my setbacks with job hunting this year. In the lesson on Luck Surface Area, I told them how I struggled to promote my work as effectively as my colleagues when I was younger.

The personal stories drove the point home. It gave the students something tangible to connect to the lesson. Something to remember.

3. Sharing means caring & caring takes energy

Opening up also takes a lot out of you.

At some point, around week 4, I hit the wall. It was similar to reaching kilometres 33-35 when you run a marathon. My battery was empty. My brain felt heavy. I didn't know where my next idea would come from.

Enter Michael Sklar with the perfect pick-me-up:

Finally - a big thank you to all of my students!

Teaching is a very rewarding experience. While I was the one sharing my writing lessons, I learned even more from my mentor group.

Jump to section 4 for some standout student essays.

5 weeks, 5 lectures, 67 students and one goal - to build resilient writing habits. Thanks to Terri Lonier for capturing this screenshot.

2. Creating Visuals for Writing

Big news!

Following the success of our Creating Visuals 101 workshop, my friend Angie Wang and I launched an accountability group for idea visualisation and drawing.

It’s called Creating Visuals for Writing or CV4W for short.

CV4W is a safe space to grow the seeds of your creativity. Over the next month, we will post drawing prompts, give each other feedback and share visualisation tips.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, join our Slack Channel here.


3. 30 Strategies to increase your Luck Surface Area

Promoting your work is like cooking for yourself.

If you can't cook and you don't know someone who will cook for you, you'll go hungry.

Apply these tips so you don't go hungry on your online writing journey:

If you don't have time to go through all 30, here are my favourite tips:

  1. Repurpose your essays for other mediums. Threads on Twitter, short-form video content on Tiktok, visuals for Instagram. This will increase your reach.
  2. Embrace the identity of your art. Say “I'm a writer" or “I’m a photographer”. People will take you more seriously and you will take your craft more seriously as well. Via Michelle Varghoose.
  3. Be a champion for other people's work. Support others on social media. Feature the writing of creators you admire. Online writing is a positive-sum game. We all win by cheering each other on. Via Karena de Souza (the champion of being a champion for others).

4. My favourites

Creators’ Corner is a place where I share my journey and showcase the work of the people I admire.

Here are some standout essays from the students I mentored:

  1. Yehudis Milchstein: Leaving Orthodox Judaism
  2. Nic Rosslee: The Nick Cave Omnibus
  3. Leslie Kim: The Fine Line Between Passion and Addiction
  4. Ishan Shanavas: Why Do You Keep Risking Your Life?
  5. Sairam Sundaresan: Stupid is the new smart
  6. Mak Rahman: You Can Capture a Moment in Time or the Moment. You Can't Have Both

Give them a read. I expect these names to blow up over the next year 🚀.

Have a great week further and happy creating!

– John


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John Nicholas Twitter

Actuary and creator.

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