The three projects in this course are designed to work together. You have a reading project, which is focused on helping to cultivate a lifelong love of reading; you have a writing project, which is designed to help you apply your reading experiences to the craft of shaping your own writing; and you have a self-awareness project, at the end, which gathers up all these threads and gives you an opportunity to reflect upon them.
The middle piece is the writing project. This is a creative writing class, and as you’d expect, there’s some writing involved. In fact, all the projects are writing projects. But this middle project — the writing project — is your opportunity to write a creative narrative. You can write about anything you want. Writing is writing, and I am much more interested in helping you to find creative freedom in your writing than I am in building a structure into which you must fit.
Your writing project will take a particular shape and will explore specific themes. These are completely up to you. The subjects and themes and directions of your writing should come from you. They should emerge from your own deep personal interest in topics of your own choosing and the readings that you are doing.
Ideally, what you create should be intended for an online audience. As a student, you are used to writing for an audience of one: the instructor. But in this case — and in keeping with the themes of the class — think about how your work might be of interest to a wider, public audience. This might change your perspective a bit. You might be inclined to include some links, images, videos, or similar media.
Try not to worry too much about how skilled you might be as a writer. If you want to improve your writing, take a look at the resources on skill development. I’ve provided quite a bit of material about how to improve.
Writing is a somewhat mysterious and unpredictable process. Sometimes a writer starts something and then finds it going in a completely different direction. Sometimes you have a very clear idea about what you’d like to say – but when you start to say it, it evolves and transforms into something else. This might happen to you. And, if it does, don’t worry about it. Follow the creative process and see where it leads.
This is a habit that professional writers use all the time. For example, many novelists don’t map out the plot of a novel in advance. They might have some idea about what happens in the novel, a general direction perhaps, but when they start writing – inhabiting characters, fleshing out scenes –the work takes on a life of its own. It goes in its own direction: characters push and prod the narrative this way or that.
And so, it’s important not to think about this writing project for our class as being something that you want to map out completely. Normally, when you write an essay in an academic environment, you might develop an outline first. And that’s fine, if you want to do that for this project. But the skills that you would use in regular academic essay writing do not often translate well into a more creative context. Yes, we are writing – but in this course there is another word before the word writing, which is creative: creative writing. And creative writing is a different animal. Most of the enduring and impactful literature in the world– books that people love to read, generation after generation –that stuff is creative writing. And, as you may know, it has many, many forms.
So, I’m not worried too much about the form that this project takes, how long it is, and so on. I am not interested in placing you inside a box to demonstrate to me what kind of writing you can do. As usual with projects for this course (and for all the courses that I teach), my interest is in turning it around, so that you are responsible for your own creativity. It’s your creativity.
Find your own voice, and take the time to build this project over the course of several writing sessions. Don’t write it the night before it's due! Be attentive to how you feel about what you’re writing. These are the kinds of considerations that go into a decent creative writing project. Don’t worry about genres, which have no real meaning in the modern literary landscape. So much of contemporary writing is a mix of fiction, nonfiction, magic realism, poetry, screenwriting, whatever. Don’t worry about it. Write something that’s interesting and important to you.
My goal is to provide an open creative space for you to follow your creativity wherever it leads. If you get stuck, or if you need help, or if you want some feedback at any point – let me know. I’ll be happy to help you in any way that I can. Keep going. See what happens. Follow the path.
The most important way in which online writing differs from printed texts involves the use of clickable links. The internet is a system based on a type of link called a hyperlink. So, for this project, add some links. The way in which this is done varies across writing tools, but every word processor and text editor offers this function. (If you use Word, look here. If you use a Markdown-based text editor, look here). Where you place links is a complex matter, as is the question of how many links to include and how long to make them. I encourage you not to worry too much about these details (as they are wrapped up with other complex issues such as search engine optimization). Instead, just add a few links to your text by weaving them into the flow of your prose: like here, where I have a link to an article by Christain Jarrett about how to read more books. Make each link two or three words (or names) long.
One way to think about this is to consider where and how you normally place citations. And, instead of adding citations, use hyperlinks instead. For example, if you are writing about the consequences of social media doomscrolling, and you would normally add an MLA or APA citation for the Wired magazine article you read about this topic, you would instead just add the link to the flow of your text wherever the Wired article fits.
You might experience one wrinkle with links if you are using a text editor (like Ulysses or Craft) and you plan to upload Markdown-based text into Moodle. The Moodle system is not set up to read Markdown properly, so you will need to export your text into PDF or Word format and then upload it. This is straightforward to do in Ulysses and Craft but might require an extra step depending on the tool you use. If you need help, please reach out.
A Note of Caution
You can write about anything you want. But please consider that any subject that is challenging for you to talk about openly (such as personal trauma) is a subject you should probably not write about — especially on a public platform such as this. 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 classroom. 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, to others in the class, or to our shared communities. We must be respectful and careful of ourselves and our relationships with others. Please ask for guidance if you are uncertain.
How to Submit this Project
Ideally, use a modern text creation tool (Ulysses, Craft, Obsidian) that is based on Markdown. Then, export your text to PDF (which will capture the links properly) and upload it to the project page in Moodle. Ulysses, Craft, and Obisidian all have excellent PDF-export functions. If you already have a website or a blog (Medium if you enjoy the simple approach; Ghost if you are entrepreneurial, and Wagtail if you are awesome), feel free to use that and just provide a link on Moodle. Use Word if you must (in that case, upload a file and feel your shame).