Thursday, 11 December 2008

Sharing the journey with students

Do you write along with your students when you set exercises? I do sometimes. Rather than stay aloof and teachery I plunge in. Obviously, it shows students that I'm on the writing journey with them. Even better -- sometimes the exercises actually help me on current writing.

Example: I have just completed teaching a Novel in a Month course and joined students in the 45 mins daily uncritical writing that makes the process work. Delighted to say that I ended up with 27,000 words. The goal was 50,000 so it was a demo that it's okay to miss goals. Also, I shared my agonies over the first 2 days of horrible blank-page rubbish with my fellow writers. No one made it to 50K, but several produced bigger wordcounts than mine. It's not a competition, I remind us. The course is based on the principles of a website of international madness-of-noveling.

Other example: Also just finished teaching Writer's Journey/Hero's Journey, and used two of the exercises to explore and deepen the protagonist who presented herself in the above-mentioned Niamo course. Synergy!

Ending the term with a flourish -- former long-time student Mike Gordon came to class to talk a bit about his handsomely self-published novel, Tracks. It's a techno-thriller, action-packed, with loads of characters. See Good for him, good for me, good for the class of new writers to see. And off to the pub afterwards for cheers.

That's it from me for this term... tune in 2nd week of January 2009 when education wakes up again.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Why do we write?

Pleased to say that InTuition, the quarterly magazine of the Institute for Learning, has run my response in its Ask the Experts feature. In the autumn edition a college art lecturer said students asked 'why do we draw?' And thinking of our own students I was moved to respond: creative writing students don't ask 'why do we write?' except when groaning over procastination. But I know that they write for the same reason students draw. To draw, to write, to make, is to capture something. It is about process, not end product -- except for commercial art or copywriting or journalism.

This art-making may express some aspect of the inner self the artist didn't even know was there. The satisfaction is in the process of discovery. The result displays the maker's voice, a unique angle on the world.

Another reason people make art is to assuage the essential loneliness of being human -- if I reach out in paint or words and you respond to my work, we have shared something, we have communicated, even if we never meet. Maybe only the artists themselves know why they create, and that knowledge can't be put into words. Why do we draw? Never mind. If we are impelled, we just do it.

Thanks to IfL for airing my views. It is the organisation all FE teachers have to register with these days as part of required professionalization (word??!!) of our kind of teaching. See my other IfL blog entries (gov't tutor registration) for more info and links. The current query asks how 'value added' works...