This Ain’t Your Mother’s Creative Writing

If you needed proof about the ways the creative arts are changing, look no further than The Machine if Us/ing Us .  If you’re reading this, you probably know all this stuff, or have some inkling about it.  The walls are coming down, folks, and more and more content is in the hands of the everyday artist.  There’s a reason why they call this Generation C, or the Content Generation. 

What does this mean for creative writing?  Well, as in any art in general, teaching it is more important than ever.  And teaching it well.  We teach a savvy generation for whom a laizzez faire workshop with the sage on the stage just isn’t going to work anymore.  Our students demand more because the world they are heading out into, the world they exist in already, demands more.   We can’t predict where it’s going to go next (who could have predicted you tube a few years back) but we can give them the tools they need to succeed, tools with which they can “monitor and adjust,” to any given situation.

I’m teaching Intro Creative Writing with a great new text book this semester, Heather Sellers’ The Practice of Creative Writing.  And let me tell you, if I tell my students one more time, “I wish someone had taught me this when I was your age,” they’re going to start keeping a tally.  Maybe they already have.

The problem is, I wasn’t taught any of this.  Not even in grad school, not much of it anyway.  Sure, there’s a lot you can learn in a workshop where the wise published writer leads and the rest of the group gets a chance to weigh in on  your work.  And learn a great deal I did. That’s why I wouldn’t take the workshop out of a creative writing class, even out of an undergraduate class, but why I would add to it.

The thing is, I could have learned so much more.

Sellers approaches her class by teaching creative writing concepts. I’ve done this for years and even wrote an article about it, but I like her concepts better.  Concepts that will help any beginning writer take her work from good to great, concepts like:  energy, images, tension, pattern, insight and structure.  Concepts that work on the premise that there are many aspects of creative writing that can actually be taught.  Moreover, concepts that give students, even beginning students, a language in which to talk about their writing, so as to enrich their workshop experiences.

The revolutionary thing about saying outright that creative writing can be taught, inasmuch as painting or music composition or acting can be taught, is that the onus is then on the teacher to actually teach it.  To think about her practices as a teacher, to do more than wing it, which some creative writing teachers have been doing for years. 

Fortunately, the times are changing.  The wingers are marching toward social security while the teachers are beginning to make themselves known in greater numbers.  But we can’t rest on our laurels just yet.  We have a lot more to do.  More that I’ll be writing about here on this blog, more that I’m saving for the book I’m working on right now, working title Burning Down the Garrett: Transforming Creative Writing Programs in the Twenty-First Century.  But it should be interesting.  And thinking about this stuff on a regular basis will enhance our own writing in the process.  I promise.

In other news. . .

It’s Red Ribbon or Drug Awareness Week in the schools.  It was pajama day for my youngest.  It may well have been a something day for my sixth grader too, but he’s generally fairly oblivious to such things, so unless we’re on top of it, he’s not with the program.

But the elementary schooler was.  Clothing is a big deal for him.  When I came home from a meeting last night, he greeted me with a monologue about what he’d wear, “his guitar pajamas,” with a black bathrobe, although by the time I picked him up today, he’d ditched the bathrobe, even though it was freezing.  Not “cool” enough, even though his lips were practically blue.

“Cool” really matters to this child and has since preschool.  We have a “wardrobe issue,” just about every morning, to such an extent that I am considering posting the WIOTD ( wardrobe issue of the day) on this blog because I never thought I’d be saying things like, “What do you mean those jeans are too “heavy”?”   Or, minutes before we are due at school,  studying his tube socks, mystified, trying to figure out why he refuses to wear them; they are too “bumpy,” inside.  We’re not even within shouting distance of adolescence with him and mornings at our house are rife with fashion dilemmas and clothing malfunctions. 

You’ll see.  Just check back in.


  1. 1

    Please don’t burn me down.
    I’ve always wanted to garrote somebody. In a garret. Go for a Garrett trifecta.
    When I was a kid I had Batman pajamas with a cape. I learned to ride my bicycle just because I wanted the cape to blow in the wind behind me. I also had Flash PJs that were too big for me. I’d try to run really fast and the footsies would make me slide across the floor, then I’d pop up and yell that I was okay because I didn’t want my parents to return them.
    That’s about as fashion-conscious as I’ve ever been.

  2. 2

    I did it, by the way.
    Here’s the Grand Experiment. It’s a decidedly inauspicious start.

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