Tuesday, February 9, 2010

An introduction to Creative Writing

Over a week between posts. Aaargh. That pretty much sums it up. I'm told there was a weekend some time during the last few days. Can't say that I noticed it.

The reason I've been so utterly neglectful of my blogging responsibilities is largely due to the fact that Uni started this week. Once again our happy little campus is buzzing to the tune of several thousand new uni students all merrily going about their business.

Actually, I like it when the uni comes back to life - somehow it doesn't really feel like a uni during those quiet summer months. Some places are meant to be filled with crowds. And, of course, with the arrival of the students from their summer migration comes the necessity for those of us with offices to start preparing to (gasp! shock! horror!) Teach!

Which is why I've been neglecting my four readers here at Musings... (Sorry Mum, Dad, Imogen and Toby)

I've been writing lectures. Specifically one lecture. Specifically the first lecture in my Introduction to Creative Writing unit. And it's proven a lot more difficult than I'd thought it would. I discussed this briefly last year and the situation hasn't improved since then. I spent a good chunk of my Christmas break pondering the notion of just how you 'introduce' someone to creative writing.

"John, I'd like you to meet creative writing. Creative writing, meet John."

Clearly not.

But still, it's been harder than I thought. Largely because the act of writing is such a difficult idea to pin down to any one motivation or approach. In the end, I opted to just wuss out on the whole thing and took the fifth, metaphorically speaking. Here's a few paragraphs from the introduction to my lecture (which I'm happy to post here, because neither mum, dad, Imogen or Toby is, so far as I know, enrolled in my unit):

Before we get into this too far, a disclaimer:

This unit will not teach you how to be a creative writer.

It will encourage you to take the first steps along the road to developing your own creative writing abilities, and it will hopefully provide you with a few useful skills and tools to help in that regard. It will, with a bit of luck, open the door to some different perspectives and ideas about writing, the act and the art of it, but the one thing it most definitely won't do is turn you from being a 'non-creative writer' into a 'creative writer'. That part of the equation is entirely up to you.

And why won't it? Isn't that what you're paying your HECS for? I'd like to begin by thinking for a few minutes about what precisely we mean by the term 'creative writing' - at first glance, this question seems like a no-brainer. Creative writing is writing stuff down, creatively.

If only it were that simple. But, of course, it isn't. The fact is that for different people, the act of writing is one that will take on different significances. For some, writing is a political act, for some it's therapeutic, for some writing is the driving passion that makes their life worthwhile and for others it’s a demon they'd rather be without.

Since the earliest development of the written word, the act of writing words upon a page (or slate, or wall, or parchment) has been used for the expression of power, of despair, of passion, of rage, of faith, of scepticism, of hatred and of peace.

Your approach to the entire concept of 'creative writing' will depend upon a vast plethora of factors. Within this unit, for example, sitting in this lecture theatre, it should be immediately apparent that we have here a wide range of people: different ages, genders, political persuasions and - naturally - different courses of study. Some of you are enrolled in your bachelor of writing degree, some of you are doing education. There are very possibly journalists, linguists, lawyers, computer programmers, engineers or scholars among our numbers. There will be people for whom this unit is their first taste of university, and some of you who might be returning to university for the fourth or fifth time. Some of you will have already spent years in the workforce, some of you are hoping this degree will be the first step in a long career. Some of you are parents, some of you can't think of anything worse.

And for each of you, the idea of 'creative writing' will doubtless hold different implications;

For some of you, the idea of having to write something down and put it 'out there' is terrifying.
For some of you, it's as natural as breathing.
Some of you want to one day see your name on the front cover of a novel.
Some of you want to write the perfect poem.
Some of you want to write speeches for politicians.
Some of you want to write screenplays.
Some of you will write every spare moment you have.
Some of you will have to lock yourselves in a small room with a non-internet computer and a time delay lock, just to get started.
Some of you are here because you really want to be.
Some of you are here because you really have to be.
It goes on (and on... and on...) but I'm going to leave it there, for the moment. And yes, I know it's a cop out, but it's also, I suspect, the most honest way to approach the subject. Unless you're Monty Python, which I'll leave you with...


  1. Man, you're a sook. Forcing all us lurkers to feel obliged to make you feel better. I read all your posts. And I am pretty sure I am not the only one interested in your next angst, happy moment and/or flash of insight.

    (hmm, Toby reads, huh? Good for him).

  2. Ah... nothing like whining self pity to flush out the lurkers...

    Glad you enjoy the blog, Trisha. And yes, Toby is a genius. Especially when it comes to dribbling and eating books. Which is kind of like reading, IMHO.


  3. Hey, I read your blog too, Tony. And don't be complaining about more than a week's break from blogging - I managed only a two a month for the whole summer!
    BTW Liked the lecture teaser - that's telling it like it is. :)

  4. Honesty is the best policy! I think the lecture is a cracker! But you left out one reason people write (well one more I thought of) ... Hope. They hope it will get picked up, published, read, be successful - all that. But to offer hope, through their writing, as well.
    Love the MP link. I have never heard that sketch before! What a hoot! What a laborious sentence. Very Hardy!!!
    Great blog, Tony! As always.

  5. Ultimately there is always the wisdom of Monty Python. One more lurker owning up... :)



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