Being Stretched as a Writer
Over July and August, I took two graduate courses for my Creative Writing and Literature for Educators Master’s Degree. These were Writing and Critiquing Fiction and Writing and Critiquing Drama, both requiring me to stretch.as a writer.
With both courses over, and me catching my breath before the final course begins next week, I am takin a moment to share what I’ve learned.
Despite being a working writer and editor since 1980, I continue to be filled with self-doubt about my work and am often surprised at the feedback I receive. In the former course, I had to write a short story and chose to write something mainstream, not genre. I was inspired by my final dog walk of the evening where I frequently see four women done with their nightly walk, ignore me and chat among themselves under a street lamp. Why are they out at 10 p.m. and what are they talking about? I had some concerns over how I handled the dialogue but was pleased with the feedback. My eight peers all focused on different aspects but generally felt I conveyed differing perspectives and personalities.
My professor, a novelist in her own right, generally liked what I did and then pushed me to sharpen the differences between the characters and jettison my ending for something different. While that proved to be a struggle, I am very pleased with the results including a second round of positive feedback. It has been a while since I was prodded like this and the results were very satisfying. Deb wants me to give it a polish and see if I can find a home for it.
The Drama course was more intensive in that we lost our teacher just before the course began so we started a week late and our replacement professor was fitting this in while working on a film he had written, shooting up in Utica, New York. As a result, despite our ambitious syllabus, he wound up trimming the final two assignments.
In addition to reading plays, watching plays, and reading some of Aristotle’s Poetics, he had us doing writing exercises. Each week built on the previous week so a nonsensical dialogue became a scene, became three scenes, and so on. Then, we had to submit a one-act play, ten pages minimum. I crafted a story of a pair of friends at a tipping point, where their relationship could become an affair or stay in the safety zone. He assigned it to a peer for feedback plus his own and then I had to revise it. Having never written a play before, although having assigned this very thing to my Creative Writers, it was a great opportunity to explore something new. It’s talky and the characters may not be as sharp as they could be.
I did the final draft and unfortunately, have yet to get final feedback (or a grade). Still, these were two of the strongest courses I have taken for this degree and its got me excited about getting back to my own original work.