Maybe it's because I've basically been trapped inside for going on eighteen days. Maybe it's because I've become disenchanted with stuff around me. Maybe it's something I shouldn't talk about on the Internet, seeing as I'm in a Creative Writing program, but Lisa's recent entry is exactly what grates my nerves about writing programs, or about "teaching" writing. Everything that follows is my opinion, I'm not trying to put words in Lisa's mouth at all. She might have a more positive take on this. And, like I said, this is my opinion, and also keep in mind that I'm not even in workshop this semester. Though the points I make are pretty much WHY I dropped before the first class.
- Writing workshops don't focus on your own writing. The professor leading the class will like what he/she likes, even if you're a good writer who just has a different take on things. If the professor hates flashbacks, 1st person, present tense - you're going to tailor your writing to what they want, just to get through the class. If you don't do that, more power to you, but I like to think I have balls, and by the end of last semester I was totally tailoring my work for this one professor.
- Isn't Creative Writing about being creative? Yes, there it is in the name, even. So why is it frowned upon to write 1st person present - a form that isn't even that innovative! I'm not saying every assignment needs to have a gimmick ala Mark Z. Danielewski, but what's wrong with exploration? That helps writing! It helps brainstorming! It helps to get out of the box, to think "I'm going to tell this story backwards." Why should that be frowned upon? Why should we be stifled by gearing our writing to dated standards?
I'm glad I dropped workshop this semester. I think I'm a little too put-off to deal with it. I haven't been writing fiction since I came to this program. Counter intuitive, right? I just have no drive. Though a great part of that is because I'm swamped with schoolwork and work-work, a big chunk is because I don't want to write what professors want me to write. When I'm given strict guidelines for a writing assignment, I can't write it. There's no room for my brain to be free and let me be myself in my writing. So my creativity is crushed.
My Sketch Writing class, on the other hand, is a good deal of workshop. Constructive criticism, an open, inviting environment. The faculty doesn't say, "You can only do it this way! This is the way I do it, this is the way that's best." They show us some professional examples, they read one of their skits, then they set us free with very broad guidelines. When you come back next week with something totally off the wall, they don't tell you it will only work in this format. They work with you and acknowledge that you're trying to do something different, and that you should think outside of the box, that you pretty much have to, with comedy. They help us with format and layout and professional aspects, but that doesn't dilute the class. We're not here to get published, like so many in MFA programs. We're here because we love to laugh, we want to make others laugh, we want to perform what we write. We're doing it for fun. Writing used to be fun, but lately, it hasn't been.
I guess this is the perfect place to shut my mouth. I'd like to clarify that I'm NOT badmouthing my program. Our faculty has a lot of experience, a lot of publications, and who am I to speak? As I commented on Lisa's post, I've been hearing advice like that my entire writing "career". Undergrad professors had certain formulas that worked for them, so that's what they taught. Sometimes they didn't even practice what they teach, which is worse in my mind. I'm not trying to point the finger at my school, because this is just my opinion. I've been thinking about it for a really long time (first day of the program, perhaps?) but it's all me. I know classmates who are learning a lot, who are growing in their writing, and who really enjoy class and workshops. This is all personal thoughts and opinions, so keep in mind that I'm a bitter, angry girl.