May 17, 2018

What I Learned From Teaching Creative Writing

Structured writing exercises and formulas can produce results, but the results aren't useful unless the writer uses their own unique voice.

Fifteen minute writing exercises produce surprising and pleasing results.

Photographs are great prompts. "Write a letter" is a great prompt and useful for teaching how to stay inside a character's voice.

Nouns and verbs provide visual images and action, but adjectives and adjectives provide none.

Decisions about punctuation and syntax might reflect one's writing voice. They also might reflect poor proofreading.

What gets in the way of your work can become your work.

Scenes are the building blocks of essays and fiction. These are made of character and action. The character always wants something, but he or she meets an obstacle. The next action reveals character and advances the plot.

Dialogue should have subtext. It signifies a constant exchange of power that might be romantic, physical, political or social. It communicates conveys conflict, attitudes, and it is shaped by intentions. environment/setting, secrets, objectives, and conflict. Dialogue can provide backstory and relationship dynamics and desire.

Fiction has sometimes been described as conflict: man against man, man against nature, or man against self. There is another way to look at this: fiction is about trouble.

Don't judge a piece of writing too early. It needs time. On the other hand, not much happens without a due date.

Teaching has helped me to articulate my own values and goals as a writer.  Reviewing the basic skills help me be skillful in my own writing. 

Support (encouragement and critique) for writers is essential. Students love to work in pairs or groups and collaborate.

Teaching is a creative act. It takes time and attention. Because the rewards of teaching are more tangible that months or years spent on a novel or new writing project, it's easy to value it more than one's own creative writing.

All the time, I witness people with talent who lack motivation and simply don't do it. I witness people with less facility for writing work hard and create great results.

Doing my own creative writing is the best way for me to stay in touch with the struggle to create a new piece of work. 

Creative writing is an excellent way to prepare for a career in any field.  It gives students practice with project management. Good writing demands deep listening, attentiveness, problem-solving, persistence, originality, and receptiveness to feedback.  When we learn to nurture our own creative projects, we have learned patience. Creative writing teaches us to work hard and make changes. It's a true gift to be able to adapt and respond to challenges.