Posts Tagged ‘creative writing

12
Apr
12

Writing is like magic: only not in the way you expect

A few months ago, I overheard one of our peer consultant, Chris, speaking excitedly about the end stages of a paper. “I just love that moment when it all comes together,” he said. “It’s like magic.”

I agreed that those end stages of a paper can feel magical. When connections between

Image Source: Flicker user Christophe Verdier

different ideas appear and the work you put into research and writing starts to pay off, it can feel exhilarating. I recall Seamus Heaney noting these feelings at a reading some years ago. An audience member asked Heaney what his favorite part of writing a poem was and Heaney said that it was when the poem could get up on its own two legs, move around, and surprise him, showing him ideas or meanings he hadn’t thought of before.

When I tell that Heaney story to classes, some students struggle with the idea that any piece of writing could surprise them. For these writers, that magical moment seems impossible. The end stages of a paper seem at best a relief of stress and frustration. At worst, they confirm the writer’s feelings of self doubt and failure. In these cases, the idea that there is a magic to writing can have a negative effect. If writing is magic, then those writers who don’t feel that mystical exhilaration may give up too soon, imagining that they just can’t cut it.

For all, writing can be like magic, but it won’t be the kind of magic that appears in fairy tales. The magic in writing shares much more in common with the magic you might see on stage at a Vegas nightclub. It may look slick, as if it defies the laws of physics, but it’s all a well practiced illusion. As writers, understanding the basis of these illusions provides us with a lot that we can steal to improve on our own texts. Continue reading ‘Writing is like magic: only not in the way you expect’

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20
Feb
12

Games in the writing classroom: designing and teaching an RPG creative writing class

Anyone who has taught literature has encountered the poetry face. For the uninitiated, the poetry face is somewhere between a pout and a frown and expresses the students displeasure with being asked to read into a poem after the student has already loudly confessed that s/he either “hates poetry” or is “bad at it” or more likely, s/he hates poetry and is bad at it.  Teachers have all sorts of arguments for why the student should learn to like poetry, and occasionally, those work to change the student’s mind. More often than not, the teacher and student reach a sort of detente, and the student suspends animosity for long enough to give the small concession that at least some poetry is not that bad.

A few summers ago, I had a student who refused to even tolerate poetry. I was teaching a three-week creative writing course for gifted middle school students, and whenever any poem came up, this student brought out her poetry face.

By no means was this a student who was incapable of understanding poetry. On the contrary, this was a student who excelled at nearly everything she dedicated herself to, academically and especially athletically. During activity times, she left the rest of her classmates in her wake, outrunning and outstrategizing all of them. In the midst of games, she thrived, her face glowing with joy.

After that summer, I began to wonder if games might be imported into the creative writing classroom to help those students who are adverse to writing and/or reading poetry. Last summer, I gave it a try, designing and implementing a Role Playing Game (RPG) that presented the ultimate quest of becoming a better writer. Continue reading ‘Games in the writing classroom: designing and teaching an RPG creative writing class’

27
Mar
11

Michael Scott: From caricature to character

Very soon, Steve Carrell will leave The Office, and the good folks at Dunder Mifflin won’t have Michael Scott to push around anymore. When that happens, television won’t just be losing one of its greatest characters. It will also lose one of the few who started off as a caricature and made the difficult transition to a character. That’s a sad thing became it will mean losing one of the few characters who we can laugh at and care about at the same time. It seems fitting then to take some time and look at how the writers on The Office pulled off that feat and to ask what writers might learn from it. Continue reading ‘Michael Scott: From caricature to character’




Good Writer, Bad Writer

Good writer, bad writer reflects the philosophy behind the first writing lesson I attempt to teach students. Too many of them come into college believing that their writing abilities are set in stone. The bad writers continue to struggle, and the good writers don't take enough risks in their writing, figuring that any misstep will throw them back into the "bad writer" category.

Good writer, bad writer is my attempt to break the power of that dichotomy. On here, I share the lessons and attitudes that I teach, but I also talk about the attitudes I have towards my own writing since many of those have informed my own teaching. Thanks for visiting.

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