Night School–The Creative Writing Class, Part 1

I’m writing this entry to describe what a creative writing class is like. If you are familiar with creative writing classes, you might want to skip this entry. I can’t say what other creative writing classes are like. This one was populated with adults of varying ages at a local community college. The students came from many walks of life, with various educational backgrounds. Some have been in this class several times, and some were actually published writers.

I never took a creative writing class in college or graduate school, so this experience was very new to me. The class started out with a brief reading by the instructor, Bill Lyon. The reading was called “Words”, and I believe it actually brought tears to the eyes of several of the class participants. Bill Lyon had a way with words.

After his reading he did what I learned to call a “writing prompt.”  I guess that writing prompts are usual educational tools in writing classes, but I had never experienced them. Bill Lyon asked us to write something about “…middle seat, aisle seat, or window seat.” The class wrote for about 15 minutes then asked each student to read out loud what they had written. He had a “no piling on” policy in which any criticism was to be very gentle if at all. Bill Lyon encouraged everyone to comment on what they enjoyed or thought was good. One of the students who had been in the class before went first. I was glad someone else volunteered. Reading after Bill Lyon had read something could be very intimidating even though he tried his best to make the class feel at ease.

Initially, I thought “writing prompts” were a little silly, but I went ahead with mine.  I learned that most (if not all) of the class were very good, imaginative writers. I was a little bit astounded by what I heard as each student read for a few minutes.  Each reader laid out his or her emotions and their past experience to a class of mostly strangers. I gained an appreciation of the value of “writing prompts” after that experience. Listening to  impromptu stories was enthralling and humbling at the same time. When my turn came around, I realized the value of reading your work out loud to someone else in itself was a valuable experience. Mistakes that you don’t see yourself become more evident when you read out loud. Reading out loud helps. Then the gentle criticism of your classmates helps as well, although they focus on your strong points rather than pointing out weaknesses. For me, this was a new experience. In all my years of teaching business subjects, “getting in touch with your emotions” was not a priority. This was much more of an emotional and intellectual experience than I had anticipated. I was impressed. I am not sure exactly what I learned, but I enjoyed the experience and was looking forward to much more. I was much more of a fan of “writing prompts” and reading your own work out loud.

After a round of student reading concluded, there was some time left in the class, so another round of writing and reading out loud occurred. The next prompt had to do with  “a Martian was ringing your  doorbell.” After that round concluded, the assignment for the next class was “Write something to be read in class.” Bill Lyon’s teaching technique was basic but very powerful.This class was to be a far different experience than any of the classes I had taken. It turned out to be an entertaining and humbling experience. I had much to learn.



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