You have the freedom to choose the form and structure of your writing project for this class, and here are my suggestions about two different paths you might take:
Option A: Inspired By…
The first path is one in which you write something inspired by the work of the author whose career is the archetypal example of what you would like to do. This “inspired by” work can be fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or whatever form and style your archetypal author prefers in their own work. Many professional authors begin their careers by writing short works in the tone and style of inspiring and successful authors. Almost no one begins by writing something completely new and revolutionary; instead, to borrow a phrase from Newton, they “stand on the shoulders of giants.” You could try standing in that place and see what happens. (You might feel that your “inspired by” work is not as good as the work of the author who inspires you. That’s fine. It goes with the territory.)
Option B: Your Creative Pathway
This path is one in which you write more generally about how you envision your creative pathway—whether or not you plan to be a professional writer. This is the path in which you write about what’s important to you as a creative person, how you see your career pathway unfolding (whatever form it takes), and how creativity might play a role in your future life (professionally or not). What kinds of things are important to you? What do you hope for in terms of your career development? What hurdles do you foresee along your way? Generally speaking, what is the overall shape of the journey you envision for yourself? This is, of course, very difficult to predict in advance. Often the careers we end up in are completely unexpected. For me, the particular blend of things that I do now—consulting, presenting, writing, teaching—is not at all what I thought I would be doing when I started out. I could foresee myself teaching, and I could see myself perhaps writing. But I did not imagine that I would be doing so much presenting work and that I would have such a public face as a presenter. In fact, I started out hating presenting (as many people do), but it’s now the aspect of my work that I enjoy the most. Funny how that goes.
I certainly did not foresee that I would end up working with nonprofit social service agencies in the areas of homelessness and trauma. That wasn’t a goal for me at all. And yet, it has deeply informed everything else that I do. That’s not unusual, in terms of career development. Often the place we end up is not somewhere we foresaw in advance. But ideally, the place we end up should be consistent with our own values, with our own sense of what it means to play a meaningful role in the world, what it means to pursue meaningful pathways.
So, this writing project may or may not involve creative writing as such. It might just be a general reflection upon the goals and aspirations you have for yourself, the values you bring to the question of career. What would be a meaningful, fulfilling career for you, and how might you take a few steps toward that? What might that look like?
Option A is more of a direct authorship pathway. Option B is thinking mindfully about career development more generally. Either way is fine. You choose. You can do both if you want. But ultimately, the writing project should be helpful to you; it should encourage you to inhabit a creative space, do some writing, and do it in a meaningful way—to help you take a couple of steps toward what the creative life means for you (whether or not you imagine making any income from your creative pursuits).
Whatever it means for you to be a creative person in the world today: that’s what I’d like you to write about. If you’re not sure which of these pathways to follow, or if you don’t know how to start, or if you feel like you need more resources or feedback: by all means, reach out. I’m happy to chat with you about it, to help you figure out how best to follow this pathway so that this project is meaningful, interesting, and teaches you something about yourself and where you might go in your path.
Details and Process
Take the project in any direction you want. As I’ve said at various points, the approach to education that we take in this class is almost the reverse of what you normally get in academia. I’m interested in encouraging you to take responsibility for the learning process. Rather than proving to me that you fulfilled criteria established by me, I’m asking you to think about important criteria for you. What does your inner life need? How do you take responsibility for it, for going deeper, for going out into the world purposefully and mindfully?
I don’t know where this project will lead you; neither do you (yet). In the study of creativity, there’s a hifalutin’ word for this process: the liminal space, or liminal zone. Or liminality. The area of uncertainty, ambiguity, and perhaps even disorientation. The place of edges and peering over them. The description of this assignment is supposed to be vague. That’s the point. All the assignments are like this. It’s your path, your creative journey. You need to follow it (or not) to where it takes you.
How long should the project be? Good question. How long do you think? If you consider the possibilities for your future career, or if you write a narrative inspired by the work of your favourite author, how many words would be required to do this well? More than a hundred? For sure. Five hundred? Yep. More than a thousand? Probably. More than ten pages? Maybe not that much. See how it goes.
Take your time. Work your way through it one word at a time. Whichever path you take, it’s impossible to do this project well the night before it’s due. If you rush through, then you will probably not be happy with the result. Instead, write this project over the course of a week or two, in several shorter writing sessions of maybe an hour each. That should do it.
And a word of caution: any subject that is challenging for you to talk about openly (such as personal trauma) is a subject you should probably not write about (in fiction or nonfiction). On the other hand, powerful personal experiences often provide excellent source material for writing, so it may be difficult for you to decide what to do. First, please use your judgment about how best to keep yourself emotionally safe within and beyond the class. Second, please discuss your plans (or your concerns) with me if you decide to write about personal or provocative subjects. In particular, be cautious of subjects involving violence, abuse, trauma, death, mental illness, and related themes (whether they happened to you, happened to someone else, or are imagined). These subjects reliably activate strong emotions and are often unsafe if not handled properly. While no subject is absolutely off-limits in this class, there are many subjects for which there is a risk of harm to you, to me, or to our shared communities. We must be respectful and careful of ourselves and our relationships with others. Please ask me for guidance if you are uncertain.
Double spaced? Single-spaced? Written with a chisel on a stone tablet? Up to you.
If you get stuck with this assignment, feel free to reach out to ask questions. But really, getting stuck is part of the process. Getting unstuck is how you activate your creativity.
The writing project is provisionally due at the end of week 8.