An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere. – Gustave Flaubert
Among the inspirational axioms writers absorb and try to live by, Flaubert’s statement might be the hardest, especially for young writers striving to transform what is most meaningful to them into works that will move an audience of strangers.
But in “Write On,” the GCU English department’s writing clinic, we are dedicating ourselves to creative writing, the daunting and exhilarating task of turning ideas into original literary works that house the personal within the universal.
What is Creative Writing?
Certainly, creativity is the foundation of every kind of writing: scholars, science writers, journalists, marketing executives and technical writers who compose papers, articles, memos and even emails all have to choose a narrative strategy, find a compelling hook for an introduction and determine the most effective organizational approach.
When the ideas are ready, all writers rely on their imaginations and ingenuity to select, arrange and manipulate language to find the best way to say what they mean.
So while all writing is creative, the label creative writing generally refers to the genres that belong to the literary arts: poems, stories, novels, plays/screenplays and personal essays.
What also distinguishes creative writers from others who write creatively is the focused attention on the craft of our profession.
What is “Write On”?
Every Wednesday at 11:15 a.m., we begin with a quote from an experienced writer, a truism that raises awareness about a particular element of craft.
From poet Alan Ginsberg on point of view, to novelist Stephen King on description, to literary journalist Joan Didion on the importance of place in poetry and fiction, we analyze the significance of these literary elements, calling upon our favorite works as examples.
Next, we respond to a prompt in a spontaneous free write that focuses on the literary element. Through this process, students discover the power of their imaginations and their capacity for invention. Often, these prompts become the beginning of something new.
During the second half of the hour, we workshop a student piece that I have emailed the group the week before, keeping the author anonymous. This way, everyone has had a chance to read the work carefully and make notes for the discussion without the self-consciousness of knowing the author’s identity.
It will not be surprising to anyone who spends time with our students to learn that they are insightful, gentle critics and that the authors are moved and delighted by the serious and smart close readings their works receive, and by the truly useful and stimulating suggestions for ways to improve.
GCU’s emphasis on good writing across the disciplines is a big contributor to the intelligent, informed and caring nature of this little writing community that gets together once a week to see where imagination can take us.
Come join us! As Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
The “Write On” workshops are just one way GCU students get involved in the campus community. To learn more about clubs and organizations on campus, check out our website.