Creatively Uncreative

A billion years ago I took a creative writing course in college. And I pretty much hated it. Mostly because everyone in it was a lit major…and I wasn’t. I became a sort of pariah because I wanted to share passages from stories by Charles de Lint or Peter S. Beagle, instead of the proper sorts of “literary” works.

In short, I was a genre-monkey – and hearing the professor compare my writing to that of Tolkien was both laughable and sad. Honestly, it’s because no one in the class had any frame of reference to anything fantasy/sci-fi and Tolkien was at least “acceptable” so, there you go.

Neither here nor there – genre is what I like reading, and what I like writing – so when I got a call from Connor’s creative writing class teacher last year to come in and chat with her students about…well, whatever it is I did, I was on-board with it. Sadly, I didn’t end up being able to do it as the teacher waited until the last two weeks of the year to get in touch with me – and both kids got ill during that time and it didn’t work out. Maybe this year.

But the thing that irritates me is that apparently during the class…they didn’t write at all. Not a single story. Not even an essay or a poem or ANYTHING.

Apparently they did nothing but grammar and sentence structure, which, you know – that’s fine for a regular Language Arts class, but I’m pretty sure the point behind creative writing…is WRITING. (Had Connor actually *told* me this before the end of the year I would have contacted the teacher to see what was going on.) It’s really infuriating because it completely sucked out any enthusiasm he had for signing up for the class to begin with.

Honestly, I suspect the teacher had no real idea how to teach creative writing – after talking to her on the phone I discovered she was actually a poet. She was extremely surprised I had to schedule my potential visits around my dayjob, since I was a “writer” and surely that meant I was working on my craft all day long. (I laughed, because sure, that’s the dream, but alas, no. Dayjob. Family. THEN writing. At least for now. The end.)

She, of course, had not had any of her poetry published, because the few places/magazines that had accepted her work were going to make her sign a contract for rights…and that was unacceptable because it was *her* poem and she wasn’t going to give anyone rights to it.

I kept my mouth shut after that, but… yeah. I mean, you absolutely have to read the fine print and know just what sorts of rights you’re signing away, but you pretty much have to give a publication the ability to print your work. That’s why they’re paying you (hopefully) after all.

I don’t know. I get pretty frustrated with the school curriculum in general anyway, but even so.

Lucy is writing her own stories these days. They’re private of course – and I haven’t asked to see them. I just give her the same advice I’d give anyone. “Write first, edit later.” And that seems good enough, for now, though she’s more interested in things like word counts, mostly out of some sort of competitive edge I suspect. I’ve had to stress to her that quality still overrides quantity – but some of these things have to be learned as you go.

In the past I might have said something like “write every day” or “write what you know” or the usual sorts of things, but that philosophy no longer works for me. I’d like to write every day, but it’s been a while since I’ve done that. It comes and goes in waves, mostly due to health reasons, but at least it still happens. (I’ve been playing around with a loose schedule to try to firm that up, post surgery. I don’t have any more excuses NOT to sit and pick away at my various projects and it’s time to get back on track with that.)

At the moment I’m hovering over a piece determining if I want a beta read or not. I think it needs a little more work and I tend to get derailed if it’s not really ready. Jumping the gun for an ego stroke usually means it’s not ready for a critique, so better to go back through for another pass.

Otherwise it’s waiting for editor feedback on the self-pub project and looking for cover artists. I’ve got some ideas, but it’s almost overwhelming how many cover artists are out there – do I want a custom deal? Painting? Photoshop? World is my oyster, and all that – though I’ll gladly take suggestions if anyone has a favorite artist.  There’s something cool about finally having creative control over this sort of thing – but I really want to do the books justice and that’s a little scary too.


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