I think to teach creativity in general you're teaching confidence.
Like perhaps those of us online know that if you want to write a story you just open up word, or a notebook and just write. But there are people out there who think they need to be told they're good enough, or take some lessons, and might have the same talent potential as you and I but need a teacher to say to them "It's ok for you to have a go."
Of course there's the technical aspects, and the practical aspects, but the creativity is more like teaching confidence.
My best creative writing professor did a couple things I really liked:
1) Strong emphasis on workshopping each other's work with a professional attitude. It forces you to finish work. It forces you to take yourself seriously (which can be a motivator to finish as well as a confidence boost--I'm a REAL WRITER, YEAH!). It also allows you to get out of your own head a little with the writing and see how others perceive it.
2) He encouraged us to sit in a different place every class day. That may sound silly and unimportant, but it mattered to me. When I have it in mind that I need to consciously choose a different location for myself every day, it was easier to extend that to my writing and my willingness to experiment. Something new every day...!
3) We had to write "responses" to well-known poems/short stories. This was a great opportunity to practice what worked in a successful piece of writing AND to interact with previous works like a conversation.
3) For poems, absolutely. Finished poems. For the short stories, we were allowed to do a scene rather than a full 12, 20, 30 page story, because these were fast, weekly exercises. But, yeah, theoretically you'd be churning out finished works.
I've had lecturers that were good at teaching creative writing and ones that basically thought it was an inate way of expressing your soul and shouldn't be taught or given direction at all. I'd disagree with the latter, though, because it can be taught and I've improved a lot by being taught.
If I was to teach it myself, I'd have a balance of technical skills, critique and learning to get ideas. Things like grammar, structure, aesthetics, style, use of adverbs, description, concrete imagery, adjectives and so on are important - you could have the best ideas in the world but with a horrible way of writing they won't get you far. On the other hand, people need to learn to get and write ideas and not worry about how good they are or if they'll lead to anything - a writer with the most beatiful style in the world won't get very far with uninspired ideas, either.
Mmm, definitely the balance between technical skills and inspiration is quite important there.
I'm thinking that's the thing- do creative writing instructors teach 'creative writing' best by teaching you the technical skills, and rely on your imagination and creativity to come up with the material yourself? Or should they be in every step of the process, through ways of brainstorming, gathering ideas etc?
They should teach both quite equally, in my opinion.
For the creative side, the teacher is there to inspire ideas and the better ones will set exercises to help with this without stifling any originality. For example, last week we had to write a poem describing the language of an animal and another where we were given an incredibly mundane story (something about a man getting into an argument over tomatoes) and then had to write it in a variety of styles (pessimistic, haiku, etc).
Of course, most of the exercises people do like that are based on the first thing they can think of and so the quality suffers. It's here that the technical skills need to be taught so that their overall style is streamlined
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