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Indeed, I think that’s as high a calling as imaginative writing itself. As lifelong students of creative writing, are we maximizing our potential if we do not maximize the ways we talk about and through the writing process?
Why are students ostensibly encouraged to workshop writing that is unpolished and adventurous, but implicitly pushed—by the tone, tenor, and format of conventional workshopping—to impress their classmates with already publishable work?
Are we really comfortable with the often gendered master-trainee relationships that tend to dominate contemporary creative writing instruction?
Those with some familiarity with the world of MFA and Ph. programs in creative writing will also know that, increasingly, those who hope to teach post-graduation are having to complete the Ph.
D.) even though these two very different types of programs are officially “co-terminal.” And for those for whom the prospect of seven to ten years of residential graduate study of creative writing seems like overkill, there are—as you’ve likely heard by now—scores of low-residency programs that at present lack the cachet of their full-residency peers but can inspire, educate, and credential you in your genre(s) of choice with a minimum of disruption to your personal and professional life.
While none of these deficits in the workshop method are new, what is new is the healthy skepticism about writing pedagogy that young writers of poetry and prose are bringing to their undergraduate and graduate classrooms.
Why is hybrid, cross-genre, multi-genre, multimedia, transmedia, mixed media, interdisciplinary, “slam,” “flash,” “genre,” “fan-fic,” high-concept, post-postmodern, collaborative, and/or formally experimental writing so difficult to profitably bring into a workshop setting (or in some instances explicitly disallowed)?And any institution that instills in its students anything but an abiding commitment to profoundly considered, bravely wrought, imaginatively conceived, doggedly innovative writing is doing a disservice.While none of us must or even should contend with the question of posterity as we write, it is no failure of commitment to writing to ask whether we are contributing something only we could ever or would ever contribute to American letters.And because in 2018 there are sizeable applicant communities congregating on Facebook and elsewhere, more than ever before a graduate-school creative writing applicant needn’t go through the arduous process of applying to creative writing MFA or Ph. Finally, because innovative multi-genre low-residency programs and “specialized” full-residency programs—programs with a theme or curricular emphasis—are now rapidly growing in number, applicants unable to leave their jobs or who have either a very broad or very narrow focus as writers are better able than before to find a program that meets their idiosyncratic needs.Yet for all the good news above, there’s also a dark cloud over creative writing in 2018—and it’s not clear yet whether it will be temporary or permanent.By comparison, I find myself at a strange juncture in my own writing and professional life, and it happens to be one in which the value of conveying what I know to be true far outweighs any fear I might have about contradicting the party line in the discipline of creative writing.In my life as both an artist and a working professional, I find that the best thing to do when you’re at an unexpected pivot-point is to leverage it into something beneficial that can be shared—hence, the book I’ve just written.Why has the workshop format not been seriously amended or augmented in the century-plus since it was invented?Is it that invulnerable to perfection, improvement, cooption, or replacement?Why do we approach writing pedagogy deductively, via the study of aesthetics, rather than inductively, via the study of poetics?Why do most workshops offer no formalized training in how to perform a literary artwork as well as compose it?