1 January 2015

A Positive Reflection of My Creative Writing Experience

Nearly 18 months ago, I attended a creative writing course.

I bring up this point in light of my previous blog post, wherein I described my high school's brand-new poetry club. (You can read about it here.)

The summertime course was held in mid-July 2013. Eight students from my school enrolled, but one person realised at the last minute that she was unable to attend, so she cancelled at the last minute. So, there seven of us in total, all of us females. All except for one of them had already been my friend: regarding this person, we met through this course and saw more of each other upon entering high school the following September.

We met every weekday for two weeks, from 9:00 a.m. to noon, in an upstairs room of the library of a nearby college . . . which I would name, but the the college is very local to where I live -- close enough to my home that, half of the days we had classes, I walked home (in temperatures over 90°F) with two of my friends who were also my classmates who were also my neighbours.

Our typical daily schedule quickly became an easy routine. No matter what, we always began by writing in our own journals and notebooks for the first 15 minutes. It was sort of a way of getting out our energy and inhibitions before class actually started, and a way of gathering ideas: we could write down our thoughts in a diary-like manner, or we could scribble or doodle. The only rule was that we had to stay silent for the full 15 minutes, and our pens and pencils had to be moving constantly.

After that time elapsed, we would be invited to share what we had written, but we very rarely spoke up. Because of this, our instructor would usually mention some major points of his own entries.

The instructor of our class is quirky, intelligent, and he provided us with lots of amusing and sometimes irrelevant personal stories. It helped to relax the atmosphere, making the sessions feel less like an actual course and more like a gathering of friends who enjoy writing.

For a number of years, he had actually been one of our favourite teachers. (Ironically, he had been the teacher of every other person in this creative writing course except for me; I appreciated him because, in the past, he had overseen our Poetry Guerrillas, and he helped us form a new poetry club a few years later.)

In this course, we spent a couple of days exploring fiction, poetry (one of my strongest points when it comes to writing), and creative non-fiction (my weakest area, as I soon learned). In each, we read and analysed as a group several authors' works (such as Frank O'Hara's). Sometimes we would individually craft pieces that purposely modelled the writing styles we studied. We discussed effective and ineffective methods within each genre.

As a prerequisite to the class, we each needed to submit pieces of our best work, which our instructor examined and used our classwork to improve upon. For example, I recall writing plenty of poetry over the course of our class, as well as assignments such as an exaggerated, semi-fictional autobiography; character sketches that we used to draft short stories; and writing poems modelled after famous ones like "Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. We did daily writing exercises that strengthened our use of imagery and other figurative language techniques. Being inside a library, we also had a vast number of reference tools available to us.

Overall, I loved the course I attended. If your community or university offers classes that interest you, I highly recommend that you take them, if you have the time and finances to do so. This is especially helpful if the class can contribute to your job or to your other studies -- employers love to see proof of past experience in areas related to your career or education. I plan to use this to my advantage in the future, because I am considering a university major in English, linguistics, or journalism.

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