Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I'm teaching a new elective this year in creative writing. I'd like to use this blog as a way to allow students to not only publish their own pieces but to receive constructive feedback. I would like my students to fear not and 'shrug at their dread and write'.
I like the following quote from Janet Burroway in her book Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft-

" You started learning to write- at the latest-as soon as you were born. You learned within hours to recognize an "audience," and within a few days that expressing yourself would elicit a response. Your basic desires created the fundamental form of story- I want, I want, I WANT!- with its end in gratification (comedy) or denial (tragedy). Within a year you had begun to understand the structure of sentences and to learn rules of immense subtlety and complexity, so that for no precisely understood reason you would always say "little red wagon" rather than "red little wagon." You responded to rhythm and rhyme (One, two. Buckle my shoe). You matched images and explained their meanings (This is a giraffe. Dog is hungry). You invented metaphors (My toes are soldiers). By the time you could speak you were putting together personal essays about what you had done and what had happened to you and forecasting fantasies of your future exploits. By the time you started school you had (mostly thanks to television) watched more drama than the nobility of the Renaissance, and you understood a good deal about how a character is developed, how a joke is structured, how a narrative expectation is met, how dramatic exposition, recognition, and reversal are achieved. You understood the unspoken rules of specific traditions- that Bugs Bunny may change costume but the Road Runner may not, that the lovers will marry, that the villain must die.

You are, in fact, a literary sophisticate. You have every right to write.

This needs saying emphatically and often, because writing is one of those things-like public speaking, flying, and garden snakes- that often calls up unnecessary panic. Such fear is both normal (a high percentage of people feel it) and based in reason (some speakers do humiliate themselves, some planes do crash, some snakes are poisonous) and irrational (statistically, the chances of disaster are pretty low). Nevertheless, people do learn to speak, fly, and garden. And people learn to shrug at their dread and write.


At 8:25 AM, Blogger Karen said...

What profound thoughts! I think many of us have fears that we do in fact overcome, challenge, and reconcile with. Certainly for many, writing is one of those fears. It is the premise of feeling "safe and secure" in our learning environemnt that often enables students (and adults) to freely express themselves through the written format. Realizing that constructive criticism is just that, a forum for enhancing and refining your written expression. I have no doubt that this forum of sharing written thoughts, ideas, expressions, etc. will prove to be most enlightening within your instruction.

At 10:25 AM, Blogger Beth McIntyre said...

This is my ultimate hope. Now if we can get the filtration/security issues at school figured out...


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