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The Secret to Writing

Novel writer Jenny Morelli highlights the importance of showing up, drawing parallels between her role as a high school English teacher and the discipline of writing.

By Jenny Morelli

January 11, 2024

I am an English teacher at a New Jersey high school. Teaching state standards to reluctant students who’d rather be playing games on their phones or watching videos with their friends can be difficult. However, it’s made so much easier when I can bond with my students. There’s nothing more rewarding than having brooding teenagers spill into my classroom before school starts and before the sun is even peeking over the horizon. Why do they come to school over half an hour before homeroom begins? 

Whether they have homework to finish or stuff to tell me, it doesn’t matter. They show up because they know I’ll be there. Just showing up is all it takes to gain their trust, to gain their loyalty, and unconditional love. They show up because I show up. It’s an unvoiced pact we’ve made. We don’t want to let each other down.

When I am greeted by enthusiastic kids in my classroom, it suddenly doesn’t matter how old I am, how I dress, or what my personal or professional struggles are. All my insecurities and teaching woes melt away when I see their smiling faces. They ask for advice and a snack. On rainy days, I brew tea no one likes. We show up for each other.

Showing up, I’ve realized, is the key to writing, too. A computer screen or notebook doesn’t care how old you are, how you dress, or what your personal or professional struggles are. Just showing up at your desk is a small step to a big victory. 

Make a commitment to show up for yourself. Prepare a hot cup of tea, wrap yourself in a blanket or a cozy sweater, and put on some pleasant piano music to help you focus. Trust yourself. Be loyal to yourself. Show yourself unconditional love, and the words will come like my ever-faithful students each morning with nothing but love in their hearts.

If I’m having a bad day from a particularly devastating rejection, my students cheer me on and say, “You’re one step closer to an acceptance.” And when I threaten to quit writing, they echo my own words back at me: “You’re not allowed to quit because you never let us quit!”

My students remind me every day that I must show up. For them. For myself. For the words I’ve painstakingly crafted. For the book, I hope to see in the hands of my students one day.

Show up. It’s that easy.

Jenny Morelli

Jenny Morelli is an English teacher currently residing in New Jersey where she is working on two young adult fiction novels in book inc.

Jenny Morelli is an English teacher currently residing in New Jersey where she is working on two young adult fiction novels in book inc.