lessons in creative writing

Tonight I have my Creative Writing class, which started in late January and has only three sessions left.  I had a feeling the class would stretch me out of my comfort zone, and that has proven true.  It’s a good thing.

In this small workshop-style setting, we are given the opportunity to read various assignments aloud, if we so desire.  However, our instructor has repeatedly told us that contrary to what we might think, we’ll get more value in giving rather than receiving feedback. It’s the art of providing (non-judgmental) feedback to other writers that will ultimately make us better writers ourselves.

I’ve become quite comfortable with giving supportive feedback but, apart from sharing a piece in the earlier weeks, I’ve clammed up when it comes to being on the receiving end. It’s an encouraging group and I don’t feel I’ll be criticized harshly or unfairly in any way.

But it’s so interesting what such situations bring up.  The mean inner voices that come alive.  You think you’re a good writer, but maybe you suck. They won’t get it, so they’ll pick it apart. They’re not perceptive enough to know what you’re trying to say.  Everyone here is way more talented than you.

Sometimes it’s exhausting to watch my ego in action!

The class has helped me explore my intentions in writing.  With blogging in particular, there is often much emphasis placed on getting ‘likes’ and ‘followers’.  But why?  What is the end goal of that?  What are we chasing?  The ego can be sneaky here. (Or blatant.)

Writers have been called narcissistic, and I wonder about that.  Writers know that it’s not really in our control – the words must come out, or we’ll explode.  Blogging is an amazing platform for this vital self-expression.  But though my blog is largely about ‘me’, it’s not because I think my life details are that important, or that people should care about those particulars.  It’s just what I know best.  It’s where I can write with the most authority.

In the piece that I shared with the group earlier in the course, some feedback I received was that as I read aloud, people started to think about their own lives.  It was thus suggested that my work lacked a certain element that would keep listeners focused on my words.

When I reflect on the piece, this was/is a valid critique, and through the discussion that ensued, we learned the importance of balancing core elements in the craft of writing. In the assignments I’ve worked on since, I can see where I’m missing pieces that would make my writing stronger and more powerful.  Connecting with other writers in this way has been eye-opening, inspiring, and humbling.

I want to be a better writer, in the technical sense; I want to be clear and get my message across; but I don’t want it to be all about me.  I want people to think about their own lives.  My measure of personal success is that my words will spur others to reflect on their own experiences and ponder their own journeys.

***

Writing is a shared experience.  I love finding our parallels and connections, and using them to bolster each other.  That’s the point.  That’s what drives me and fires me up about the whole thing.

It’s very cool that this class is clarifying my values – and showing me when my ego is running the show.

I’m looking forward to sharing my words tonight.

22 thoughts on “lessons in creative writing

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this! Sometimes when I write I hear that voice in my head (ego?) saying “Oh, what so YOU’RE the expert now??” It can cripple my ability to express myself sometimes.

    Thank you, dear Aleya 😉

    Wishing you peace ~ Allison

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  2. “In the piece that I shared with the group earlier in the course, some feedback I received was that as I read aloud, people started to think about their own lives. It was thus suggested that my work lacked a certain element that would keep listeners focused on my words.”

    Hum. I think that’s what makes your writing great. I don’t feel like I lose your words as they make me think about my own life. But what do I know, I’ve only read every blog post you’ve ever made 😛

    I”m glad you’re enjoying the writing class and that it’s expanding you and making you grow as a writer. I have been thinking strongly the past few days about seeking out classes to learn how to do wood working and welding. I’m kind of tired of DIYing everything and would like to relax into being taught…I think, haha. We’ll see what happens.

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    • i think it’s great to take classes to get a new perspective – but it’s also made me learn more about my own style, and appreciate it and enhance it.

      we had our last class last night, and i have to say, in the long run this class prob won’t be so much about the actual writing, as it was about the sharing and being open to feedback. the various assignments sometimes brought up a lot of ego stuff, and that in itself is always interesting! 🙂

      keep me posted on the welding stuff. relaxing (downstream) is always a good thing. ❤ xo

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  3. I often consider taking a creative writing class, but inevitably defer, whether out of cowardice, arrogance, or inertia is difficult to determine. Clearly, I have some introspection to do. I took two levels of creative writing as an undergraduate 20 years ago and found it a less than fulfilling experience. I’m a lot less outgoing now than I used to be. I admire that you’ve taken the plunge, and am cheered that you find it beneficial.

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    • i’d contemplated taking creative writing for years before registering myself in that class. i think i had these notions of what what a writer is or isn’t, and i didn’t see myself as one. it was totally intimidating but having this blog increased my confidence.

      i’m glad i did the class so i could learn about the fundamentals, but ultimately is was less about the actual writing and more to do with sharing my work with a very diverse group. i don’t know that i will take another class though; i kinda like doing my own thing. thanks for commenting! aleya

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  4. You are a wonderful writer, sweets. I’m not sure what you mean about writing not only about you – don’t we write what we know best, as you also pointed out… so in essence, we know ourselves, understand ourselves… and in times of confusion, then we write about the confusion. The way I see it, we are all surfing the same sea. We only have different surf boards and we choose certain waves. When the audience can relate to what you wrote as you read the piece aloud, seriously, I truly feel your message has come across.

    On the technical side, their feedback is only to enhance your skills. Too often we think we’ve made a good piece… well, that’s why there are editors lol!
    I took a course for writing for children and also technical writing (the latter is for work). The biggest challenge for me is to be very descriptive in writing for children. I thought, well, my ego thought, that since I’m very animated, this will flow easily… it did not… my brains were pried apart like a tuna can to become even more animated (see how I just described it there… haha!)…
    I guess my point is… writers would always have a big ego. The whole adventure to writing is finding out whether your heart can tame the roaring ego to write better each day. That being said… you already have… by writing here about it. =) xo

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    • i always appreciate your thoughtful and supportive comments. i’ve also wanted to take a children’s writing workshop but that’s the one i’m seriously intimidated by – lol! one of those things i’m super drawn to but have no idea where i’d start. (well, signing up for the class is a good place – hehe.) and i’m also finishing up a technical writing class, for work as well. both the creative and tech writing have been challenging in different ways but i can way with confidence that technical writing is not for me. i’m glad i’ve learned structure, but that’s a little too much for me!

      i love all our different styles of writing here on WP. yours is poetic, deep yet light, and full of imagery, from my perspective. i think of my fave bloggers and we all have a uniqueness – that’s what is so great about having this forum where we can share our paths and self-express in the way that’s most natural to us. and evolve at the same time.

      my class only has one session left so it’ll be interesting to see how things play out once it’s over. what i’ll remember. and one thing i haven’t mentioned is that some of our assignments were quite profound and stirred up some deep emotional stuff – not just for me but for others in the class. it was like mini therapy every week. thank you maia…you’re the best! xo

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  5. I was recently listening to The Rich Roll Podcast, with guest James Altucher a very successful blogger and author. James said he only publishes when there’s fear. I found this fascinating. Some of my worst pieces of writing I was afraid to publish. but the resulting surge of power was magnificent. It also made me more available away from the fear. I don’t know why I’m telling you this…it seems off the subject but not.

    With any art, if it’s art, then it’s deeply personal. It has to be. I don’t know if the ego voice will leave, but it’s not ruling. That’s why your writing is powerful. If you were in your ego when writing it wouldn’t connect to so many people as it is. You’re already in touch with your sensitivities as to what you should be writing and you’re doing an amazing job. There’s no time for doubt. You’ve arrived.

    Love, Arifah xoxoxo

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    • thank you arifah! you always have such deep, and supportive, insight. i always have a little rush when i hit that ‘publish’ button. fear, excitement, nervousness, vulnerability. here i go, putting myself out there again. and yet, it must be done. the connection with others, between my words and theirs, is so important to me. sending you love, aleya

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  6. Congratulations on the class and learning so much! I’ve been desiring to hone my writing skills down as well because it is a craft. And crafts take years to master. Valuable insights to your writing style and values.

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  7. When I read “people started to think about their own lives,” I thought, that’s great! You spurred them on to personalize what you had written about. Then I realized that it’s not such a great thing because, as you say, it may mean that your writing lacked something.

    But listening, as opposed to reading, can be much more passive if one’s attention is not 100% focused on the speaker and what they’re saying. That responsibility of a listener’s attention does not entirely rest on the speaker. You can’t control how they listen.

    If you’ve done your best, then for those who are fully present and listening — actively listening — will get whatever you put out.

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    • yes i think it’s about the balance – understanding that writing is a craft, with structure and grammar and all that, but it’s also a personal creative exploration that should be able to do anything it wants :). it has been helpful for me to get feedback from other writers who are right in front of me and listening to my words, telling me what their immediate impressions are. i do get feedback on my blog through comments, which i enjoy, but many blog readers are on the same-ish journey as me, or have the same interests. whereas in a class, everyone is so different in their backgrounds and beliefs, you never know who will be sitting next to you! so it’s been so interesting and valuable to get that different, objective perspective. thank you for your comment! 🙂 aleya

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  8. Wonderful post. I can relate. I was asked several years back to write weekly posts for the member site for Cosmic Cowgirls. I remember the fear of doing it, but I said yes because writing is what I dream of doing. For a year I wrote those weekly posts and posted most to my public blog too. The next year when the Cosmic Cowgirl Magazine was being created I was nervous about asking for one of the columns, but again I just went for it. I have been writing the Mojo Monday posts for 5 years and for the magazine 3 years. The weekly and then bi-weekly Mojo Monday posts taught me so much about letting go of expectations. It has always been nice to engage and share with those who comment, but I embraced writing just because I want to and need to write. If no one commented it didn’t faze me and still doesn’t. One thing I also learned from meeting with members is how often people read posts, enjoyed them, yet didn’t comment. Smile and hugs.

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    • thanks michelle! i read your blog and relate to much of what you write about. i also checked out cosmic cowgirl – very cool. i’m always reminded of the anais nin quote: ‘and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom’. the urge to create is always there and eventually bubbles up so strong that we can’t not do it. it can be scary or anxious – but ultimately it feels like relief! aleya

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  9. Let us know how it goes!
    I really struggle with ‘rules’, especially when it comes to art, but do respect that we need to know certain essentials or can learn how to do certain things better. If you feel like this class is helping you, I take your word for it 🙂
    I like your writing! It’s honest and spontaneous, with clear ‘messages’. In a way it’s personal but also universal, i.e. it does make me reflect on my life or life in general (and many others, according to your comments section). If that’s your goal, you are doing well Girl 🙂
    My thing is that I struggle with long posts, and I therefore try to keep mine a brief as possible. This actually takes quite a bit of time, because short but meaningful is challenging.
    I have always read your posts though 🙂 xox

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    • it went well, thanks! 🙂 i think it helped to write this post beforehand. i was enjoying being there, for the sake of being there, and just reading my work aloud to others is a great experience in itself. i also wrote something along the lines of poetry, so that was different. i do agree with you re the rules. while it’s been interesting to learn the ideal ‘structure’ of creative writing (can creativity be structured? hmm), i like having my own style and that prob won’t change for the most part. but i’m always up for learning, and it’s been beneficial to get this perspective.

      thank you for your support and encouragement. i am honoured that you read all my posts; i know some of them are quite long, and i also struggle with reading longer posts. so it means a lot. xoxo

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