This course is focused on cultivating creativity, wonder, and engagement with the traditions of reading and writing. The core theme of the course involves the development of self-knowledge through creativity. Every creative tradition and cultural mythology affirms the fundamental role that creativity plays in personal development. The path of self-knowledge is the most rewarding journey we can undertake, yet it is also the hardest. We are challenged by our family histories, by our cultures, by our own traumas and vulnerabilities. And yet we must persist, as all the old tales say, so that we discover the essential unity between ourselves and the cosmos. That’s what creativity has always been about. At its heart, creativity is the path of illumination. No matter how much we apply modern attitudes to the creative process, that process inexorably guides us inward, toward a confrontation with our own consciousness and with the vast story of the universe. And that journey does not end: it simply tracks every more deeply into vast and unfathomable mysteries.
And so, whatever point learners find themselves in their own odysseys of self-discovery, this course encourages them to do some self-examination. All the great tales arise from the journey inward, and our own versions of that journey will be the source of our deepest and best creativity.
This course is designed using principles from an evidence-based theory of learning known as the ecological approach, or nonlinear pedagogy, which emphasizes the dynamic and reciprocal relationship between individuals and their environment. Here are a few tenets of the ecological approach as they apply to creative writing:
- Self-organization: Individuals spontaneously organize their creative activities to address tasks or challenges, adapting their practices to find optimal solutions without relying on prescribed techniques. In other words, in this course, you will define and follow your own creative path rather than predetermined outcomes established by the instructor. The creative activities are designed to encourage this type of exploration and discovery.
- Unique Solutions: Recognizing the diversity of environmental factors and individual experiences, the ecological approach posits that each person may derive a distinct solution to the same problem (for example, what should I write?, or what should I read?). This adaptability and versatility in solutions is a central feature of the ecological approach. Everyone is different; each person interacts uniquely with their environment and follows their own creative path.
- Minimized Role of Experts: In the ecological approach, experts (instructors, guides, coaches) act as facilitators. Instead of prescribing specific methods and outcomes, experts craft environments that encourage individuals to explore and discover their own best strategies, underscoring the belief that through environmental interaction, individuals often discern what's best for them. In the ecological approach, an instructor should help a student discover where to look but not what to see. (This is why you have a reading list but no specific required readings; it's why all of the activities and projects encourage broad exploration but do not have specific learning outcomes predetermined by the instructor.)
For many people, these features of the course are a huge adjustment. The approach of the course is opposite to all mainstream education (in which the instructor tells you exactly what to do) and can be disorienting for those who are accustomed to meeting the expectations of teachers rather than finding their own pathways. The course resources are designed to help you adjust to and navigate this environment in ways that are fun, useful, and meaningful. But it is an adjustment for sure. If you find yourself struggling in any way, reach out.