What should you write about? That’s a tough question for me to answer because I don’t know! The only person who can answer that question is you. What do you want to write about? What do you want to say? What do you need to say? What’s interesting to you? What story do you want to tell? What do you want to learn more about? Where’s your voice? In this class, it’s very important that you choose what you write about. That’s how creativity works. You can’t be creative if I tell you what to do.
The only way for you to be more creative is to reach inside yourself and discover what’s there. You can write stories (fictional or otherwise), nonfiction, poetry – anything you want. We explore a few different types of writing in the course, but you shouldn’t feel constrained by the readings you’ve done so far. Write about whatever you want.
This is the toughest part of the course for many people. The feeling of being adrift can be tough. Many learners are so used to the instructor just telling them what to do that this new approach can seem jarring. Suddenly, the feeling of freedom from the beginning of the semester (yay, flexible due dates!) is replaced by feelings of bewilderment, anxiety – and even resentment toward the instructor.(1)
Don’t worry about genres. Don’t worry about where your writing fits in the literary landscape. These are academic considerations and are unimportant in our context. What is important is your connection with yourself, with your own creativity, and with your ability to express yourself on the page. That’s what I’m interested in. I encourage you to be interested in that too. Don’t ask yourself what I want. Ask yourself what you want. Follow that impulse and see where it leads.
- A big part of the difficulty here is the fundamental disconnect between mainstream academic culture and the cultivation of creative skill in any field. These are very different processes, yet we are trying to do the latter (develop creative skill) in the context of the former (a traditional academic institution), and sometimes the collision between these two can be whiplash-inducing. It’s like riding a meteor that crashes into a glacier. But I’m doing this for a reason — I am committed to helping you with your creativity and your creative writing. That’s the whole mission of the course. And I, as your instructor, must not be dissuaded from that mission just because we’re surrounded by traditional academic structures. The research is clear: mainstream academia is not so great for creative development, can often harm creative development, and must be resisted if authentic creative development is to happen.