Writing is a pathway of endless discovery and development. Borges in the library, Dillard at the creek, Jemisin in the counselling office: writers find their way. Sometimes they know the shape of that path, but often they do not. They wander, and meander, and explore. It’s an inward journey.

This course provides a context for you to think that journey, about the next steps of your own development as a creative person – regardless of what you plan to do with your writing. You have the opportunity to shape your own trajectory in this course, to develop a project that’s meaningful to you, to find support for whatever comes next.

There is no single right way to be a writer. There is no necessary connection between writing and publishing, or between creativity and income. Let’s not fool ourselves: writing has only been a professional career for less than two hundred years. We shouldn’t artificially conjoin an ancient creative practice with modern sensibilities. If you want to be a professional writer, I support you in following that path. But if you don’t, or you’re not sure, or you perhaps want to blend writing with something else, those are equally valid pathways.

Extolling the writing life is not helpful. It’s an artifice of the twentieth-century bohemian lifestyle. You are probably not going to spend your days swanning in cafés along the Siene, discussing Flaubert. And yet, in our development as writers, we are told over and over again that writers are a certain type; they express their writerliness by way of a certain attitude, an aloofness from the rush and tumble of common life. Bullshit. Writers are of every stripe and every type. They are regular people trying to find their way.

Maybe you have a plan, and maybe not. But here you are, near the end of your degree, looking for a way out. Anxious, perhaps, about that wide open plain beyond. In this course, my hope is that you consider this threshold as a place that you can inhabit creatively. It’s like the door in the mountain:

Maybe it’s enough to remember that way up on the Eiger’s murderous north face, amongst rockslides and avalanches and maddening foehn winds, the most unlikely door in the world, the stollenloch, always swings free.

Follow your path in this course. Write whatever nurtures you. Read whatever inspires you, challenges you, helps you to know that your journey has meaning. That’s all, really. I know that sounds pretty vague, and it is intentionally so. A course such as this should not be focused on me trying to press you into a shape defined by my own notions of what it means to write and be a writer. This is a threshold course (that’s a term that I just made up); it’s focused on the integration of the many things you know and have done to get you this far. I’m hoping that you will read, write, and reflect. What this will look like exactly, and how you will carry it out, is up to you. It’s your path. My job is to be at the way station, so that when you arrive there I can do something to help you.

Reading Project

As I said, read what nurtures you, what feeds your soul. Read as much as you like. And then, sometime around the end of week four, write something about your reading. For example, I have composed this entire course overview while thinking about books that have shaped me as a creative person. They are scattered throughout this page, in links and quotes – and even in the kind of language I have chosen. The literary geology of this overview takes us from magic realism to fantasy to science fiction, all grounded in a bedrock of the literature of human development (see the last item on this page, and every page, of this site). The peaks and high deserts of that geology are the pathways that I have taken. My dusty footprints lead off into the morning light of those far-off places. (By the way: you can see some of the books that have shaped me by looking at the banner image on this page, which is a photo of one of my bookshelves.)

But that’s me. What about you? What books have shaped or are shaping you? Where is your reading leading you? Why? What does it mean?

The reading project is an open space to think about the role and purpose of reading in your life. That’s a tall order. I don’t expect a fulsome answer. But please do remember that this project is not for me; it’s for you. It’s an opportunity to reflect on reading, write down some of your thoughts and feelings, and mark this threshold moment.

There are more details about the reading project on the reading project overview page.

For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length – and there I travel looking, looking breathlessly.

Writing Project

A threshold course® must give freedom to the writer to write. So, write something that embodies your desire for yourself as a writer. I can’t tell you what that might be. Something you’ve been working on for a while, maybe, or a shard of a much larger project just taking shape in your mind. Or a plan, even, for a project yet to begin. Or something completely new. Up to you.

Whatever you choose to do, be ambitious, and feel free to check in with me anytime about it. You don’t need my approval for your project; you just need to work on it. I will trust you to do work that is meaningful to you, and I will give you feedback as requested (as with all the projects). It’s best, of course, to ask for specific feedback.

See the writing project overview page for more details about wrangling a big project in a course like this.

Aim for the end of the eighth week to get this project done. See the due dates page for more information about the final deadline (end of week twelve).

Without a warm and open attitude to our craft, information is of little value; it can even be an index of indifference. It is what we do with what we know that matters, finally – not only the results, but the doing itself.

Self-awareness Project

Check out the self-awareness project page. It has all you need. Essentially, the self-awareness project is an opportunity to reflect upon the depth of your experience in the course. How did it go? What happened? What did you notice? What was difficult – or great? What does your experience suggest to you about what comes next in your own development as a creative person?

As usual, the structure of this project is flexible. You can include as much as you like: thoughts, reflections, ideas, implications, insights, or anything that might help you to deepen your creativity and understand your life.

I think there are always two sides, and one of them is the unsayable. The utterly singular. Who you are; who you can never tell anybody. And on the other hand, there is what you can express. How do we know about this thing we talk about? Because we talk about it. We’re using words. And the words never say it, but the words are all we have to say it.