On the teaching of writing

I sent a query to see if there was any interest in the new arts building in Lethbridge to have a writing workshop or workshops. I signed up for a writing class at the college in my first year in Lethbridge. I was late because I had to drop off the contract to my first book, Castoffs, into a mailbox and I couldn’t find a mailbox.

The class was…less than inspiring. It was supposed to be a ‘how to write short stories and novels’ that was taught by a poet and painter. I went to three different classes, not in a row but over the course of a couple months. The instructor had the class spend the first five minutes writing about a subject, then the rest of the class was her picking people to read out what they had written and then she spent 10-15 minutes talking about the subject of the student’s work before moving onto the next person.

I saw a lot of talent in my classmates in that short five minutes of reading, but it wasn’t the focus of the class. With that style of learning, when people broke off to form their own private groups afterwards, they kept the format, minus the instructor’s comments about the subject matter. Everyone wrote for 20-30 minutes, and then everyone read what they had written.The groups actually focused in and praised the writing itself, so that was a massive improvement.

I know there were people in the group who were actually published and there were quite a lot of very nice turns of phrases, but the format just didn’t work for me. I have no idea what people did with the stuff they wrote. Most of them were working on something bigger. There’s a small problem where speaking the words conveys more information to the listener than the printed word tells the reader, but it’s just coming together and sharing a different part of the process as the kind of group I want to be involved in.

And there’s nothing wrong with that style of group is that is what people want to join. There is no wrong way to get together and write. I would really like Lethbridge’s CASA to form a group that works more with the finished product and what it was trying to say about something. We throw around “write what you know” like it’s a mantra, but it’s not just talking about your physical skills. It can go deeper into writing what you feel and know to be true deep down in your guts where it can be scary. A lot of writers come to that brink and then veer away when they could be battening down the hatches.

In my short story that I sent off for the Halloween MLR anthology, the love interest tells the main character that he would read everything he had ever wrote. He would be happy to listen to the main character plot out his ideas and he would read the first drafts of his stuff if it was written with crayon on used butcher paper.

The MC stops him there. He had no need for that level of commitment. Your first drafts aren’t for sharing. I get that my style isn’t everyone’s style and some people have a riverbed in their head that produces the world’s finest clay that is the perfect kind of clay to spin, but for me, the day I realized that my first draft was just a raw material that the finished story will emerge from. No matter how good I think I stapled the idea in, when I knew the whole of the story, I can nail that point in.

Good writing not just writing without any errors in it.

But that’s just me. There are many different ways to work clay into finished stories. But if someone can produce perfect ashtrays on their first go, chances are they aren’t looking for other methods of cutting off the vase.

From right now, I’m going to use vases instead of ashtrays in my metaphor.

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