Imagination Should Not Be an Elective Subject

As a teacher of Creative Writing, I often feel like I’m not contributing much. Though it is part of the English department, Creative Writing is an elective course. There is no graduation exam for electives; we are “none of the above” subjects, whose only purpose at times seems to be supporting the “real” subjects – math, science, social studies, English. We are kept around to fill holes in students’ schedules and give them something fun to do when they’re not cramming their brains with math and science.

That’s about the way I saw it too, when I began. But in the three semesters that I’ve taught this class, I have come to believe that Creative Writing could be the most important class that students take. They have been so well ‘schooled’ that they are badly educated. Since the age of five, they’ve been learning not to write down an answer unless they’re sure it’s correct, to follow directions, and do things the right way. Socially, they’ve learned that the goal of school is to fit in, not be different. Certainly not to be creative. Except for a few rebels, they don’t know how to have ideas.

And yet, without new ideas there is no progress – or even survival.

Can people be taught to have ideas? Can creativity be learned? If it can, it won’t be from fill-in-the-bubble tests. The notion that there is a right answer and a wrong answer for every question is what our children are learning right now.

But there isn’t a right way or a wrong way to write a poem or a story. More

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The Muse is not a Jerk

People who write or paint or compose may also have a talent for making other people miserable. For some reason, they are given a pass on this behavior, on the grounds that they have an ‘artistic temperament’ and can’t be expected to remember that it’s their turn to do the dishes.

But creativity is not defined by piles of unwashed dishes, unfolded laundry, and overdue bills. All artistic people don’t live on take-out, sleep odd hours (or not at all), or forget mundane things like birthdays and anniversaries.

Creativity is no excuse for making other people pick up after you. Being an artist  doesn’t justify being a jerk.

I would like to be taken seriously as a writer, even though I’m paying my bills on time, getting enough sleep, and holding down a job. Can’t creative people have organized file cabinets and clean desks?

Where did this notion come from – the ‘artistic temperament’? More

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