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'+'''What Is The Pedagogy of In Creative Writing?'''+' By Steve Sellers
'+'''What Is The Pedagogy of In Creative Writing?'''+'
By Steve Sellers
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Over time, voice theory has been gradually marginalized from the mainstream of composition theory. While voice stills exist within academic discourse, a growing consensus within the academic conversation regards voice as either discredited or outdated.
The most glaring drawback of the expressivist-oriented creative writing classroom lies in assessing student work. Consequently, there may not be a single approach. Nor may there be a clear standard to grade effectiveness of voice; Elbow admits that grading real voice is a process (280). While it is common to derive a grade from the work itself, or from the journaling and drafting process, a clear standard for the grading of voice does not presently exist. Unlike the composition classroom, this presents a particular challenge because creative work cannot fall back upon the uniform academic format of composition. The creative writing instructor must, therefore, use individual judgment in assessing whether each unique piece of student writing possesses the necessary to meet the course objectives. The subjectivity of voice creates doubt as to whether the student learned to develop and hone the individual voice effectively.
In recent years, social-constructivist theorists have advocated a more rigorous and uniform approach to writing, minimizing the role of voice as a form of . Social-constructivist critics also have charged that voice theory does not address social concerns or give the student writer a sufficiently solid grounding in real theory. These criticisms paved a foundation for a pedagogy that minimized the role of voice in the writing classroom, leaving the creative writing teacher to safe and marginalized (Bishop). While the development of the individual voice through creative writing still takes place, it has been effectively separated from the larger picture of writing pedagogy.
Regardless, voice theory still holds strong influence over the creative writing classroom. Because of the greater degree of informality, a non-academic purpose, and the creative emphasis, creative writing classrooms have evolved into a home for voice theory.
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Voice can be a challenging concept to teach simply because is an innate concept. Because there is no single approach to achieving voice since writing conventions vary, the writing instructor can only facilitate voice. The teacher, therefore, must generally serve as a guide, coach, and counselor; the role must be to remove barriers between the student and his/her voice to the greatest degree possible. As a result, writing teachers often position themselves to invert the pedagogical ethos of composition, to foreground their role as keepers of the castle rather than the openers of the castle (Lardner). The inversion reveals through student content. Where the standard composition class encourages a single academic voice, the creative writing class encourages each student to find the individual voice. Sometimes creative writing students even develop multiple voices of individual characters, the voice of the narrative, and the voice of each creative work as a whole.
The journal serves as a useful tool for the creative writing instructor. By assigning writing exercises, the teacher can guide the student to the necessary through the journal. The journal allows the student to write in relative privacy, which removes the potential barriers presented by negative criticism. The journal also serves as a necessary stepping-stone to the workshop setting, allowing a smooth transition from the freewriting exercises into submitting finished work. While this process is no stranger to the composition course, the creative writing course uses the journal to develop the voice of a specific piece of writing. That final voice may not necessarily be the standard academic voice; creative writing students are often encouraged to break the boundaries of standard English where it serves the purpose of the work. The composition class generally converts the journal voice into academic English, while the creative writing class may maintain the journal voice or create a new voice entirely. In contrast to composition, the creative writing instructor will focus on the process of reaching voice, and not upon the final product.
With a focus on encouraging the individual voice, the workshop impacted the creative writing class by presenting an environment compatible to open expression. Through the workshop, the student writer is empowered to receive, as Ed Davis notes, perks of writing, such as the correspondence you develop with other writers by submitting your work, getting any editorial comments you can use to make your story better, publishing, even the subsidy publishing perhaps of your book, of having a book to share with other (Waggoner). The format is designed to boost the self-confidence of the student, since much of the challenge of submitting creative writing is the fear of negative criticism. The structure of the workshop limits student defensiveness by requiring writers to remain silent during the discussion of the submission, while also empowering the workshop members to deliver open and constructive feedback.
In the creative writing classroom, encouraging student confidence to submit work becomes all the more essential. In a composition class, submission is far less risky because the student can fall back upon the standard academic voice. This academic conformity creates a zone of safety for the student. In contrast, the creative writing classroom presents a riskier atmosphere and can be daunting to the [creative] writer, especially the (Zacharias). Furthermore, because creative writing relies far less on the standard rules of composition, the individuality of voice increases the risk of negative criticism. For the creative writer, there is no safe bubble of conformity. Therefore, as Gary Mitchner says of modern creative writing courses, a friendlier workshop environment promotes lack of pressure to be (Waggoner). Where the composition class emphasizes the finished paper, the creative writing class emphasizes the confidence of the student writer to express the individual voice.
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Although he did not invent the concept of voice, Donald Murray defined the concept of reaching voice by conveying the experience. Where Elbow revolutionized the way process was taught, Murray refined and built upon the new paradigm that formed during the and in the college classroom. Murray also influenced an entire generation of expressivist theorists, including Wendy Bishop, Lad Tobin, and Donna Qualley.
Lived experience represented an important part of voice to Murray. According to Tobin, Murray believed that the writer should embark on his own path of discovery to the writing process:
[A writer] should focus as much on the process as the product; that we [as writers] should emphasize creativity and discovery and even invite accidents and contradictions; that we should de-emphasize, at least initially, rules, correctness, and caution; that we [as teachers] should encourage students to choose their own topics, forms, and strategies. (Tobin)
general approach loosened and relaxed the old formalist techniques, which emphasized adherence to grammatical and other standard English rules. By relaxing these rules, an aspiring creative writer could, in theory, find voice by following the path of discovery that best suited the writer. The journey would, in turn, guide the writer to the voice that best suited the experience. In this way, the writer and the experience become a closed circle that evolves together.
Murray also advocated the idea that voice becomes its own authority. As a professional creative writer, Murray researched other creative writers to gain an insight into his own techniques, which he would in turn pass on to future writers. Through this research, he explored the debated idea that words gain life through the act of writing, gaining power over even the writer. To this end, Murray that words have a singular agency, one that behaves much like an unruly character in the first draft of a novel or short story, bossing the writer around, surprising her, and most of all, defying her (Ballenger). The voice, according to Murray, brings life to the words on the page, sometimes in ways that the writer cannot control; where this process might intrude upon composition, in creative writing, the idea of serendipity is a creative aid that enhances the individual voice. This concept builds upon idea of power, but to an extreme that defies the own control over the words.
Several points of convergence emerge between Murray and Elbow, although they deviated in other aspects. For instance, Murray accepted the continuum of process and embraced the multiple roles of the author. For Murray, an author was not unified but a divided one. Part producer of text, part generator, part (Newkirk). Because of this divide within the author, an author can possess many voices that can serve multiple functions within a creative work: character voice, narrative tone, and even symbolic language. However, for Murray, there was a certain importance in accepting the voice of the : that trusts in the generative possibilities of language to help us discover things we planned on (Newkirk). For Murray, the divided voice of the author contributes to the discovery of self, which then contributes to the voice of the story or poem. Where Elbow stressed control, Murray embraced the possibilities of serendipity in an work.
Like Elbow, however, Murray stressed the inherent power of revision over an draft. To Murray, the process of revision does not create a censor, but rather, a refinement of the discovery process:
When Murray separated internal revision from external revision, or the writing we do to make what we have said conform to the needs and expectations of others, he was looking into the old text of current-traditional rhetoric and entering it from a new critical direction. (Qualley)
To the expressivists, revision has the power of giving strength or focus to a piece of writing. For the student writer, revision gives clarity and meaning, and allows the writer to arrange the words to suit purpose and audience. The writer may discover new meaning from the act of revision, as much as through the process of composing. However, unlike the composition class, the storyteller creates layers of meaning through the act of writing, and thus real voice creates new discoveries as much as it uncovers them. Refining the experience leads to new discoveries for reader and writer alike. For Murray, this was the ultimate goal of the revision process.
One of major contributions to creative writing pedagogy is the goal of capturing experience through the prism of fiction. As a creative writer, Murray embellished many details into his own poems, while remaining true to a key experience that influenced his own life. Where the composition classroom often must capture experience literally in narrative, the creative writer may draw on as much or little experience as needed to write the story or poem effectively. However, because voice resonates through experience, the creative writing course teaches the student to channel only enough experience to make the writing believable to the average reader. Therefore, in the view of Murray, and thinking develop through an ongoing process of internal (Qualley).
If Murray could be considered a compositional philosopher, then the most primal element of that philosophy would be discovery through experience. While his approach to composition has been challenged since his death, Murray remains a formative figure in the creative writing classroom.
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As a general rule, expressivist theorists approach creative writing as a series of bipolar forces acting upon each other. Voice embodies an important element of these bipolar forces within the craft. Consequently, voice is a critical foundation of the expressivist theory of writing.
One of the major tenets of expressivist theory is the idea that there are two processes within creative writing: the creative method and the critical method. In practice, these two elements contrast each other and create a pendulum of opposites that strengthen and define each other.
Peter Elbow was one of the leading pioneers of voice theory in the late and early . Elbow played a major role in the development of techniques used within composition for decades, including freewriting and journaling. However, his ultimate goal behind the use of these techniques is the development of what Elbow refers to as (Elbow 189). For Elbow, attaining is an ongoing process towards a destination, and not an immediate breakthrough:
Most students have been taught by writing teachers to draft, get feedback, and revise (even if many of them skip this sequence when they can). Most students can see how writing is a process of slowly constructed meaning, often socially negotiated through feedback. They have learned that clarity is not what we start with but what we work toward. Fewer students are prey to the once-common myth that good writers sit down and immediately produce excellent writing out of some magical genius place in their heads. (Elbow, Writing First)
Consequently, in the expressivist view, the student must accept a realistic mindset towards writing in order to find voice. Once this mindset is accepted, the student must devote consistent effort towards developing that voice through practice, which will often consist of journaling exercises. This sense of dedication to the act of writing itself, regardless of quality, is a cornerstone of Elbowian theory.
To an expressivist, the act of writing embodies the continuum between the creative and the critical. Elbow initially discourages the idea of as writing in the creative process. He recommends a method where the writer finds voice through the act of writing, ignoring the concerns of quality or craft until the revision phase. In Writing With Power, Elbow claims that the writer does not to give in to this dilemma of creative versus critical thinking and submit to the domination of one muscle and lose the benefits of the these two skills used alternately undermine each other at all, they enhance each (9). Rather than viewing these elements as pure opposites, Elbow advocates a symbiosis where unrestrained writing is revised and pared down until the final product reaches a heightened state of resonance.
For Elbow, freewriting is an essential element of this process of bridging the continuum:
But there is something I call the freewriting muscle that I often do talk about although not usually by that name. It's a crucial cognitive and linguistic ability that everyone has an ability that most people demonstrate every day in speaking.
It's the ability to utter words and thoughts about the topic at hand entirely without mentally rehearsing them beforehand. Few people do that when they write. "Unplanned language" sounds like what our teachers all warned us against, but it's very precious when we are trying to write. (Elbow and Sorcinelli).
In theory, freewriting embodies the unrestrained thoughts of the writer, perhaps the way the writer might speak in casual conversation. The pure flow of creativity would, according to Elbow, remove any barriers to the creative process by simply writing through the barrier. It is this creative flow that embodies voice, because the conscious mind has no chance to impose limits that silence that flow. freewriting techniques offer the writer a pure voice that can be focused later during the process of revision.
For expressivists like Elbow, the goal of writing is to capture lively sound of (Elbow 292). By tapping in to the fundamental persona of the writer, the writing finds resonance and real voice, thus leading to the development of effective writing.
methods gave significant advancements to the creative writing instructor. The creative writing instructor will approach the creative/critical pendulum on a deeper level than the composition instructor will. In the creative writing class, the goal is to remove all barriers to the creative end of the spectrum to foster real voice, while using the critical process to refine the creativity into a workable product. However, the emphasis will focus upon the creative process, while keeping a lower priority upon the critical process. In the creative writing classroom, the creative process generates voice, while the critical process removes all lifeless and voiceless passages from the creative work.
While critics such as David Bartholomae and James Berlin have challenged theories, several of techniques still remain in active use in college classrooms. Freewriting and journaling methods represent legacy within the academic environment, especially in the creative writing classroom. While ideas continue to spark debate between expressivists and social-constructivists, his influence continues to be felt decades after the publication of Writing Without Teachers.
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