Creative Writing Club
I’ve been teaching for almost six years now, and one thing that always bothers me about the way degree program requirements are set up is that for some students, there’s no freedom to learn about anything not related to their declared major. This is especially evident at places where students are working towards accelerated degrees. My students are doing in 2-3 years what most students do in 4-5, and their schedules are packed tight.
I work at a place where students major in amazing things like music production, creative writing, and video game design. From my experience teaching general education courses that these students take early in their degree programs, many of those non-creative writing majors are also extremely talented writers. Once they’re no longer in my class, though, those creative writing muscles don’t get many more chances to be flexed. At the end of my class, some students are completely done with writing, moving on to engineering or design for good.
About two or three students a month (we have accelerated semesters, too. One traditional semester’s worth of work is taught and graded every single month) catch on to this and ask me what they can do about it. Some of them love writing so much that they come back and see me in the office for nothing but talking about their favorite new book or a poem they wrote that they’re really excited about. My online only students will email and call me after class is over for advice on writing projects, or for help getting through a challenging part in their writing process. I love this part, and do it happily, but for my first six months teaching I wished there was something more I could do.
In June of this year, I approached a colleague that used to run the writing group on campus. We did loads of paperwork, gathered up the interested students, and after months of waiting (of course we met as a group before this—who wouldn’t?), we were finally awarded official club status a couple of months ago.
Official club status is a glorious thing. We were all excited at the prospect of no longer meeting in hallways or “the fishbowl” late at night when no other students would be around to distract us. Now we could promote through all of the official channels. That promotion worked, too, because we have new students coming to our events every month.
Very few things make me happier than watching these students from so many different degree programs have a chance to focus their energy on writing in a way they wouldn’t otherwise get to. We host a formal writing workshop every month, where we push up our sleeves and work hard. Only two of the students involved had ever been in a writing workshop at all, so it took effort on all our parts to get everyone comfortable and ready to make informed comments about each other’s work. We all push each other to do better.
We have fun as a group, too. Many years ago, I was introduced to the concept of an “artist’s date”—time set aside to explore something interesting. I’ve since explained this concept to them, and we plan to go on these “field trip” adventures together once a month.
Our first trip was to The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. We looked at beautiful creations made of glass (or followed around the security guards that all looked as if they had a secret), and went outside to write something, anything, prompted by a piece we looked at inside. We shared our writing right there on the sidewalk, in the middle of busy downtown foot traffic. Some of them don’t internalize it, even though I tell them every chance I get, but their writing is getting better and better because of the effort they’re squeezing into the small amount of free time they have. They’re more than worth the extra minutes I have, too.
(Thanks for the photos, Liesch!)
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