Reading Louis Menand’s feature, “Show or Tell, Should Creative Writing be taught?” in The New Yorker, June 8 – 15.
What’s surprising, speaking personally, is the intensity of this longing I have to teach. Working as a (part-time) editor-consultant-coach to a few selected writers, but it’s the university teaching I’m missing, the urge to be in a classroom / seminar with poets and fiction writers. Likely a better listener, more patient, better able to get inside peoples’ work than in the years I was working so hard to get published, etc. And all that goes with it. The Academic game.
“Revise!” is the war cry of all writing classes. I myself am one of those ‘writing IS revision’ people. Menand quotes from the “Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing… “Write any sort of rubbish that covers the outlines of what you intend: the plot outline; character sketches; description… begin by freewriting and free-associating sentences until some patterns emerge that begin to intrigue you solely for the sound they make, their rustle of possibility.”
John Gardner’s book “The Art of Fiction” concludes with a list of writing exercises (quoting here from The New Yorker):
“2. Take a simple event: A man gets off a bus, trips, looks around in embarrassment, and sees a woman smiling… Describe this event, using the same characters and elements of setting, in five completely different ways.”
“ 4b. Describe a lake as seen by a young man who has just committed murder. Do not mention the murder.”
“4c. Describe a landscape as seen by a bird. Do not mention the bird.”
“27. Using all you know, write a short story about an animal—for instance a cow.”
As Menand points out, these are exercises about “acquiring a knack for adopting different styles and assuming different points of view.”
As for me, I'm just a teacher assembling materials, preparing for his next class
Causes Robert Sward Supports
Audubon Society, National Geographic, "Green," the Environment, SPCA...