In my early years, my teachers would announce that we would be working on creative writing or we are going to use creative writing and the same image popped in my head every single time. I immediately pictured an author sitting at his desk in his fancy office lined with messy bookshelves. He would have a pen in his hand, his papers would be scattered all over the desk, and a typewriter would be sitting in the middle of the chaos. Eventually the typewriter turned into a Mac book because no one could possibly write a great novel without one (according to my inexperienced mind). The point is, I associated creative writing with one subject and thought it had one way of being used. I know now that that is in fact incorrect.
Creative writing can be described as an art form because the individual that practices it is making something up or interpreting something else. The main areas where it is used is poetry, plays, songs, and a few others. It is the act of someone coming up with an idea and translating it into words. It sounds simple enough but for some it can be as easy as learning Mandarin. Thankfully, it is something that can be taught and practiced. Like anything else, there is natural talent, but the skill still needs to be worked and improved.
A major reason for most people being so afraid of creative writing is that they do not feel that they are proficient enough in the laws of grammar. As much as I love to read and write, I know that I still make mistakes when it comes to grammar. People assume that since I read so much I am automatically a grammar wiz and will have me edit anything they write. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. The beauty of creative writing is that there is room for change. People shouldn’t be so intimidated because the focus of this skill does not revolve around the technicalities of writing be it spelling, grammar, etc. These factors are definitely important but they are not a reason for not being good at writing.
Another reason that people choose to say they are not good at writing, is that they do not feel they have enough imagination. Again, this is something that can be worked on. It is an actual skill that can be improved and is actually extremely helpful. Most adults, like Marilla Cuthbert from Anne of Green Gables, will think this is ridiculous because in order to be a grown up you must grow out of such childish activities but I promise you, imagination is just as important as any other skill. If all individuals lost their imaginations upon reaching adulthood, we never would have made it to the creation of the wheel much less a smart phone. All of the scientists, engineers, politicians, CEOs, and other titles have had to possess some sort of ability to think further than what they were taught. This is where innovation begins. This is also where you can get your ideas for writing.
The most amazing aspect of creative writing is how it helps people learn. In Caroline Elser’s research paper “The role of writing: Increasing higher level thinking for all students”, she mentions a study where instructors “felt that the students demonstrated increased motivation, were able to make connections across texts and showed increased capacity to critique material.” Students, myself included, gain more from having to write papers than taking a test with multiple choices questions, true/false, or fill in the blank. These forms of testing force students to think in terms of predetermined mold. It is like forcing a tactile learner to be like an auditory learner. It just doesn’t work. Giving a student the opportunity to take pen to paper allows them the freedom to make sense of what they have been taught and organize it in a format that can be understood. In my opinion, this is the only way that any teacher will ever know what their students know. I agree that having to grade tons of papers is daunting work but wouldn’t the end result be worth it?
I want to teach higher education English some day and this is one of the methods that I will be testing my students. I’m sure I’ll be cursing myself as I’m staying up late trying to get through all the papers but I know it will be worth it. It will be invigorating to read the original ideas and connections that they will come up with. It will be those moments that will make all the rest worth the struggle.
Elser, Caroline. (August 2008). The role of writing: Increasing higher level thinking for all students. Retrieved from http://scholarworks.uni.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1037&context=grp