O Angelina

A Girl and Her Dog: Living, Loving, & Enjoying the Little Things

Everyone Should Write Well.

Writing, For My StudentsAngelina OberdanComment

Well... Everyone Should Write. 

I'm developing my syllabi for the classes I'm teaching next semester, and I was reviewing my boilerplate content because I realized at the beginning of last semester (too late, when I was standing in front of my fourth group of undergrads for the day) that my boilerplate content is different in each of my syllabi. Since I can't remember which class I have which policy for, I have got to get it together. 

Anyway, in addition to my particular policies (give me 48 hours to email you back, don't be annoying), I have an "I love teaching this class because...." How this statement got in there, I have no idea. I think it appeared during the first few years after grad. school when I was teaching anything and had to convince myself that I loved teaching the course. 

In my business and technical writing classes, my syllabi say something like, "I love teaching this class because it's practical and immediately applicable." And my creative writing syllabus says something about how this is what my degree is actually in.

When I noticed this, the sorority girl my head said, "Wait. What?"

Creative writing is practical. Somehow our understanding of practical (or maybe just mine) has become skewed. Practical seems to only describe something that will have an objective measurable outcome; it has little or nothing to do with anything artistic or subjective or immeasurable. I also associate practical with necessary. If I've started to think that creative writing isn't practical and necessary, I've seriously lost my way. 

Creative writing is practical and necessary.

It's practical in that it frees us from the objective measurable minutiae of our days. Steve Kowitt writes in In the Palm of Your Hand, "To write poetry of a high order demands that we excise from our lives as much as we can that is petty and meretricious and that we open our hearts to the sufferings of this world, imbuing our art with as luminous and compassionate a spirit as we can."  While his statement is a little more complex than most of my sentences, Kowitt is right in that poetry serves a purpose in our lives that little else. For instance, few churchgoers would argue that going to church isn't practical, and for them it is. So for poets, poetry is practical. (And probably churchgoers would argue that church is practical for everyone just as I would argue that poetry is.) 

And in Richard Hugo's "In Defense of Creative Writing," he writes, "I believe worthwhile things can't be justified. I would never try to justify sex, fishing, baseball, or Mozart" (Triggering Town). I mean, really, who would want to give up sex or Mozart because it's not practical or necessity. And not only that, the worthwhile is indeed practical and necessary. 

Poetry is also necessary. Poetry should be like reality. It should reflect reality in a lens that makes it clearer to us. I'm going to go romantic for this argument. There are so many love poems because we all agree that expressing our love to those we love is one of the most necessary aspects of human communication. The verisimilitude of a poem is what makes it good and necessary. 

So everyone should write well, whether creatively or not, because both purposes of writing are practical and necessary.