Sunday, January 29, 2012

Creatve Writing

English majors... Where to begin...

First, I need to say that I know not all English majors are this way, but almost all of the ones I've met have been. So when I am talking about English majors, don't be upset if you are an English major, you know me, and You are not like this. It's just a generalization.

I signed up for creative writing class. In my head, creative means to create, to come up with something new and original. To build something new from nothing. I always thought that the things you create came from you. I am very quickly learning that creative writing classes are not actually based on creativity. They're based on how much the teacher likes your work. There is no room for thinking outside of the box.

My teacher gives us two poems and then asks us which one we prefer. We each take turns and explain which poem we like and why. My teacher says "I prefer this poem, because it's a lot more specific." Everyone else picks that poem because "it's a lot more specific." My turn comes. I explain that I like the other poem because it isn't more "abstract" but different. It's talking about something different. What happens? I get put down, because my opinion is clearly wrong... who puts me down? My professor.

A lot of people might think I just chose the other poem to be different, but I genuinely liked the other poem. I chose the poem I did because it painted an image that I liked. The other poem painted an image, just not my first choice. When I read a poem, I read the entire poem. The beginning, the middle, and the end. The middle is a piece of a whole. The second line relates to the first line and the last line. It's a story. Exposition, rising action, denouement. Pieces of a whole. Context and text. I could be wrong, but poetry is a part of something, it's an attribute as well as an object. It's a piece to a larger whole. It's a small window into the life of the writer; it's a description of an image in a world different from our own; it's a story.

I read poems like I watch movies. Each line is a scene. Each stanza is a sequence. It's a story. A moving image. If you watch movies from different eras and nations, you can very much see how that society functions. Poetry is the same, context is important. A poem should be able to stand alone, but to fully understand the meaning, you need to know under what circumstances it was written.

You can't "unread" something. Once something has been described, it is now that. Once it's been called orange, you don't need to keep referring to it as something that is orange. You can do whatever you want from there! But my teacher insists that you can't. This is unacceptable to him:

The brown potatoes are dirty and taste like mold. 
I don't like eating those. 

He would say "I don't know what "those" is referring to. The second line is completely vague and meaningless." If I say "well, in context, the second line makes perfect sense and isn't vague." Then I get dirty looks and dumb comments from my class.

When my English class reads a poem, they look at each word individually. It's as if they're looking at a grocery list. Bananas, bread, milk, cheese. No story. No meaning. Just words. They look for the exact meaning of each word rather than the spirit.

We read one poem written by someone in my class. It was a break-up poem (I assume...). The writer talks about having a "cell" in their hand. They use it in reference to a cellphone, but then it could double as a small cage. I pointed out the double meaning and how it adds to the poem, in my opinion. My teacher then replied with "If you're going to start using multiple meanings, you have to use all  of the possible meanings. Cell could then also mean small living organism, and that just doesn't make sense." I replied with "In what world would we do that?" He gave me a dumb look.

Our professor gives us writing exercises. One was to write a list, going from very vague to very specific. He gave us suggestions, but also said we can chose to do whatever we want. His words were things like "authority" and "seasons." I did mine on a ladder. I thought I did brilliantly well! He gave me a 0... I had to talk to him about it, eventually I got 100% on it. He said my choice of word wasn't good. I wasn't sure what he meant by that, because a word is a word and I followed the directions as well as nailed the assignment!

I'm learning that this class is not for actual creative writing. I understand that there are forms we have to follow. I know that there are good suggestions and tips for successful writing. But I feel like the letter of the forms have overpowered the spirit behind the art. I feel like my teacher is far too focused on the how and not the why. And my class is so dang close minded, being in Utah county, that they can't form their own opinions and risk being different. (that is going to be a whole other post...)

Anyway, I have homework to get done. Enjoy this image:

I strongly suggest going to this site, it's funny. Mind you, I didn't go through the whole site, so I can't guarantee a G rating on it. Tread with care if you're concerned.

1 comment:

  1. So I'm just now getting around to reading the comments left on my blog. For some reason I never imagine people actually reading the posts I write! Anyway, I saw that you had left a comment on my first poem in our class which was quite a surprise! I'm a little embarrassed that you know it was mine! Ha ha! But mostly I'm just surprised you found my blog. Did you do some searching or did you just remember the blog name from our first day of class when he asked me it?

    Anyway, I agree with you about the class. He sometimes has some really weird hangups... like when he said "body" was too vague in my poem because it could mean arm or elbow or eyeball or urinary tract or any other random body part!! Haha... anyway, for the most part I'm one of those people who doesn't talk in class. I just sit and listen!