Squeezing the CREATIVE out of creative writing students

I teach Creative Writing at an arts high school. It is the best gig in the world. Except when it’s not.

I feel like I spend far more time trying to teach the “creative” than I do focused on parallel structure and personal narrative. That’s because, I think, schools work hard (yes, even arts-based schools) trying to establish rules that govern how papers should be written, how long they can be, how many quotes they must contain and even whether contractions can be used.

These rules are squashing our students’ ability to think for themselves. Most don’t even know what to do when I give them the freedom to WRITE WHATEVER THEY WANT.

But …

Should it be fiction or nonfiction?

Can it be written as a screenplay?

Can it take place in another world?

“Yes! Yes! Yes! It can be anything at all. Poetry, micro prose, personal essay,” I tell a pimply-faced junior who stays after class for reassurance.

“But, how will I know if it’s right?” he asks

“It will feel right,” I say. “The words will come and it will feel free.”