Monday, February 10, 2020

Nervous About Teaching Creative Writing.

Tonight I’m teaching my first Creative Writing class at our local community college. It’s a continuing education program so I won’t be grading papers or scoring tests. It’s purely for people who are interesting in learning about being better writers.

I’m a bit nervous because, while I’ve taught a couple of college courses in the past and given writing workshops, I’ve never taught a course on Creative Writing.

To be sure, I can offer advice on the mechanics of writing. How you can go about developing characters that are interesting and memorable. I can show ways to create a protagonist who is relatable. I can talk about how you should “show” rather than “tell”. I can offer my thoughts on plot structure and even a few tricks about plot twists.

We can discuss the strengths and weaknesses of narrative viewpoint and how to write believable dialogue.

I’ll suggest that they read aloud what they write. It’s a great way to “hear” what’s been rattling around in their heads and then hammered out onto their laptops.

I’ll let them know that often it’s a good idea to leave your manuscript in a drawer and walk away from it for a few days or even a week or two. Then when you’re ready to write a revision, open the drawer and you’ll have a fresh set of eyes critiquing it.

But what I’d like them to do, more than anything, is to bring in some of their works in progress and read selected passages from them aloud to the class. I’m hoping the feedback they get will help them become stronger writers.

I’ve taken creative writing classes and was scared out of my wits to read what I’d written to a room full of people. Even to this day, I can speak to an audience about my books and my thoughts on writing, but reading from my novels still makes me nervous.

But the great thing is, in a creative writing class, you’re in a room full of people who share your passion. Everyone there has a joy for writing.

So, I think I can do a good job helping them with the mechanics of writing. But can someone teach creativity?

I’ve read articles that say that it can be taught and some that say that it can’t. There are exercises that can help strengthen someone’s creativity. But as an adult (and all my students at adults), unless you are already endowed with it, is it really possible to suddenly grow creativity if you don’t already have it?

Tonight, I’m going to ask each student what they hope to get out of the class, who their favorite writers are, and tell us about their ‘work in progress’? And if they tell me they don’t have a WIP, I’m going to have to ask them, “Why the hell not?”

Now, I’ll end this blog with three quotes:

“It aint’ whatcha’ write, it’s the way atcha’ write it.”—Jack Kerouac

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”—Ernest Hemingway

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do for them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”—Dorothy Parker


Aline Templeton said...

I saw that Dorothy Parker quote this week and had filed it away for future use but you've beaten me to it. Drat! :)

Thomas Kies said...

Sorry, Aline Templeton!