Jonathan Dittman received his MFA from Goddard College in Port Townsend, Washington. His creative work has been published with The Pitkin Review, his essay on language and identity theory has been published in the book collection Perspectives on Percival Everett, and he is the founding editor of The Rejected Writer, an online literary journal aimed at publishing and promoting the under-represented writer. His academic background also includes an MA in English from the University of St. Thomas – though he in no way subscribes to institutionalized religion – it is just a really good graduate program in Minnesota. He has taught English Literature and Composition at the college level for the past three years but has recently turned his sights toward mentoring in creative writing. Authors he admires include, but are not limited to, Aimee Bender, T.C. Boyle, Dostoyevsky, Borges, George Saunders, Dante, Flannery O’Connor, Percival Everett, Nabokov, Joyce, and the list goes on.
Asking one to define their teaching philosophy is the equivalent of asking one how to explain why they teach in the first place. Many times we have no fucking clue why we want to get up in front of a group of students or cohorts and attempt to deliver some profound truth or inspirational saying we’ve picked up along the way. In my mind, it is often those instances in which we find ourselves lost in our heads amidst the words of the instructor or fellow writers that we really do the learning.
That is why writing retreats and residencies are of such value to the writer – whatever stage they may be at. During my studies at Goddard, I found myself discussing the art of writing and literature with a broad range of students – from the already published novelist to the guy trying to crank out his first “literary” story that wasn’t a complete piece of shit in his own mind (me).
We all learn from each other. Yes, someone must guide the way, hold hands when their fellow writers are in doubt (we’ve all been there and will forever be there, I believe), but writing – as much as it is a solitary act – is always larger than us. The real learning does not come from within the pages of a textbook but more often emerges from the synthesis of opinions and insight from your mentors and peers.