Opinion: Writing Classes: Make It or Break It?

     Originally posted September 25th, 2013

I’ll say right off that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with any kind of writing class, whether it’s standard Composition I, or some kind of “creative writing” class. On one hand, hey, I get to spend an entire class writing. I’m down with that. On the other hand, however, so much of how much you enjoy a class, or how good the class is, depends on the teacher. Yes, I know that idea applies to pretty much any class (though I’ve yet to have a teacher that can make Probability and Statistics fun), but I think that it goes double for any kind of writing class.

I know good and well that not everybody is going to enjoy my writing style. I’m good with that; I don’t enjoy everyone’s style, either. But those people aren’t grading me. My GPA doesn’t hinge on their opinion of my writing style. I’m a very descriptive writer. My works aren’t full of gushing descriptions of a single piece of clothing, but my writing certainly isn’t “stark.”

Too flowery or too bland, too vague or too specific, too long-winded or too straight-forward: it’s all a matter of opinion. In my senior English class from high school, my teacher gave two separate grades: content and mechanics. I never made below a B+ on either. Most of the time it was never below an A. She liked how I write. My Comp. I teacher from college? Hated my writing style. I never made below a B-, but I knew the content I had written was better than that. But he entered the grades, so he made the decision.

Please don’t think I’m complaining about getting a B. I’m not. B’s are completely acceptable to me. I just know what I had written was better than that.

The same thing happened to my grandmother in college.My grandmother had a job writing for radio stations. She was an English major who never made better than a C in creative writing because the teacher thought her writing was too “flowery.” (I’ve read her writings; what the teacher thought was “flowery” was probably just snark.)

I’m also not sure how creative “Creative Writing” classes allow students to be. Unless the teacher doesn’t give students an outline of how the story is supposed to flow*, doesn’t tell a student that their poem has to be ABBA style instead of free verse (not a fan of free verse poetry, though I have written some), then I don’t really call that creative. Creative is coming up with an idea for writing on your own, not being handed something from a teacher/professor.

To be a creative writing teacher, I feel like a person should be unbiased towards a students writing style.  I know, that’s not a easy thing to do, but it’s necessary. Unless you’re teaching a specific class that strives to use a certain style, (I’m looking at you, Writing in Psychology) then, unless there really is a genuine problem with the student’s style, they shouldn’t be given a lower grade simply because the teacher doesn’t like how they write.

But, all in all, I guess that I’m still grateful that I had creative writing classes. I just don’t always agree with how they’re structured.

Cheers!

Mayuuya (Chelsea)

*I know that there are some elements that every story needs to have, but that’s not my point.