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.

Try no 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 reading project is worth 40 percent of your grade and is provisionally due at the end of week 8.

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. 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 me for guidance if you are uncertain.

Example Narratives: The Mythic Landscape

Beyond your own chosen book(s) from the resources on Moodle, you can read various example narratives in the Readings area. In particular, The Jasper Queen and The World Tree are focused on ancient stories and our personal connection to them. The difficulty with examples such as these is that they might suggest to you a right or correct way to complete this project — the instructor's way. Please be aware of this difficulty and remember to create a project that is uniquely yours.

If you want to do a deep dive into mythic narratives and their meaning for the contemporary world, you can read my book A Stone's Throw: The Enduring Nature of Myth. Each chapter of that book is available for you to read online at the following links.

  1. Emergence
  2. Becoming
  3. Relics
  4. Radiance
  5. Watchfires
  6. Shadowlands
  7. Pilgrimage
  8. Homecoming

Ask for Feedback (or not; up to you)

Please remember to ask for feedback if you want it. If you do not ask for feedback, you will not receive feedback. For further details, please review the feedback page. You will see on the feedback page that feedback is a recirpocal process; it requires reflection and consideration. Appending a single sentence to the end of your project with the words “feedback please” is not asking for feedback.

Not everyone wants feedback. Some learners just like to see a grade. That is a completely reasonable approach and you will not be penalized for taking that approach. See the feedback page for details.