Creative writing – Vejen Business coll. – march 2014 Bent Sørensen, Aalborg University
Creative writing As part of your English classes – Why? • In English we always work with these skill areas: • English communication skills – You need to be able to understand, describe and produce English language for different and specific purposes. • Academic writing – a genre you need to master at the university and can use elsewhere • Grammar – formal and functional understanding of the English language • All of the above can also be practiced in creative ways
Creative Writing, continued... • Creative writing - will not teach you to be artists • But it gives you a chance to study poetry, fiction, and non-fiction in new ways – by participating in them! • You will produce several types of texts, playing with these three creative genres…
4 perceptions of writing – who writes for whom..? • Life-writing (about me) • Cultural practice (for us) • Dissemination (“Formidling”)(from me to you) • Professionalism (for them)
Writing game 1 • Write a poem in fiveminutes. • Thinkaboutthe ’creativity’ of it. • Is it creative? • Why/why not?
Writing game 2 • Consider the instructions on the following slide. Try following them. • Would this work as a way of getting your creative writing going?
Instructions “Whatever you write is right. You can’t write the wrong thing. It doesn’t even have to be in proper English. Write when and where you feel like it; day or night, in bed, in a café or on your bike (difficult!). Write only two lines, or lots – in a notebook, on scraps of paper, perhaps in a folder, or on your computer...”
Instructions, continued Type whatever comes into your head for 2 minutes – don’t stop to think! It might be a list, or odd words or phrases – spelling and proper sentences don’t matter
And the source: • Gillie Bolton: ‘Writing or Pills’ in The Self on the Page, ed. Celia Hunt and Fiona Sampson • IN OTHER WORDS, A LEAFLET DESIGNED TO HELP ANXIOUS OR DEPRESSED PATIENTS! • Does that make you feel differently about the writing you have just done?
WRITING THE INVISIBLE Something deep and invisible ‘comes out’ in writing. Whether the ‘source’ of the writing comes from ‘inspiration’ or from expressing ‘self’, that source cannot be seen. • Writing is individual, with its materials all invisible until words are put on paper. It is imagination and thought - until organised in written language.
WRITING AS READING • If you don’t read, you cannot write. Read journalism, reviews, travel writing, scientific articles, editorials, etc., etc. That is why we have a blog roll with good stuff to read… • All writing does not come from personal experience, but from reading, analysing and thinking about the above.
WRITING AS WORK AND REWRITING • “All completed writing involves preparation, taking notes, writing rough, perhaps fragmented versions, rewriting, producing drafts, revising, editing, proof-reading” • The muse doesn’t hand down any complete and perfectly formed novels, poems or plays to writers • Writing is (hard) work.
Myth 1 • Myth: you need inspiration to write – good writing begins spontaneously in an inspired moment • Reality: Inspiration emerges from writing.
Myth 2 • Myth: you have to think before you can write • Reality : you think when you write or after you have written
Myth 3 • Myth: it is important to begin well • Reality : the best beginning is often written as the last thing. It is more important to begin at all than to begin well!
Myth4 • Myth: all texts must be original – you always have to write something new • Reality: very little is thought, written or said which is completely new.
Myth5 • Myth: all texts must be flawless and perfect • Reality: there is no such thing as a perfect text.
Myth6 • Myth: good writing progresses easily • Reality: writing is full of ’relapses’. You need to rewrite, delete and be patient!
Myth 7 • Myth: writing is most effective if you write in very long sessions, and writing demands long streches of uninterrupted time. • Reality: the above leads to long breaks and getting burnt out. Creativity arises from continuously working with writing.
Writing game 3: Word hoard Take the book I’ve given you. Close youreyes, open the book and put your finger on the page anywhereyouwant. Takethe wordyour finger is pointing to and copy it intoyourworddoc on yourlaptop. Copyalso the threewordsbefore ’your’ word, and the threewordsafter. Youshouldnow have a seven-wordphrase…
Word hoard 2 Read your phrase carefully and then start writing anything that comes to you, as fast as possible. There are two rules: don’t stop writing, don’t think about what comes next. Write for five minutes, non-stop.
Word hoard 3 • You have now made a word-hoard. Read through it to see what it is about. • Then read it backwards word for word. When you read it backwards the text will be strange and new. • When you get to a phrase (just a few words – 3 to 6 maybe) that makes some strange sense, sounds funny or otherwise inspires you, take that phrase and use it as part of a new text – your next writing task...
Word hoard 4 • The word-hoard that comes from your unconscious is just the raw material. • The real task is to write a new text – inspired by and containing your backwards phrase! • This text must be a speech • You can imagine it is a speech given by a politician who wants to be elected, or by your teacher who wants to persuade you of something, or by a bride/bridegroom who gives a speech for his/her loved one…
Tasks… • Post some of your writing on the blog: writing games 1 (optional) & 3 (a must) • You will receive comments from me on every post • Read some of your class-mates’ posts, and comment on at least one of them!
Textual intervention • Challenging and changing the text • Changes can be made at all levels: • From nuances of punctuation, spelling or intonation • To total recasting in terms of GENRE, TIME, PLACE, PARTICIPANTS and MEDIUM • Other terms: Adaptation, Remediation
Textual intervention - examples. • Substitution of single words (‘Hi!’ instead of ‘Hello!’, ‘she’ instead of ‘he’) • Use of punctuation (inverted commas: she ‘loved’ him; continuation dots instead of full stops: she opened the door …) • Shift in genre or medium (f. ex. part of a play recast in the form of a novel, series of letters, legal testimony, psychiatric interview) • Development of the existing characters, scenes, events or arguments in a text…
Writing game 4: Textual intervention De- and re-centering: • Read and understand the poem • Re-write as a storytold in the 1st or 3rd person • Use only words of one syllable
William Shakespeare - Sonnet #18 Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And Summer's lease hath all too short a date: Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, And oft' is his gold complexion dimm'd; And every fair from fair sometime declines, By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd:
William Shakespeare - Sonnet #18 But thy eternal Summer shall not fade Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest; Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade, When in eternal lines to time thou growest: So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
What was hard in that task? Obviously not the one-syllable word restriction…
Task… • Post your stories based on the Shakespeare sonnet, complete with a suitable illustration to go with it…
Authorship… • So far we have spoken a lot about writing as an individual process, no matter whether one writes for oneself or for others, privately, publically or professionally… • What if we look at collective authorship for a second…?
Surrealism as a case • Automatic writing • Collective authorship • Randomness as compositional principle, cf. also Dada… • Exquisite corpse game, named after this collaborative sentence: “The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine.”
Exquisite Motion Corpse • About this video project • The Bodies and Beat App!
Writing Game 5: Exquisite Corpse • Rules: In groups of 5, take turns writing a word or two without knowing the preceding bit(s) • It’s the responsibility of the no. 5s to write down the sentence! • Follow this sentence structure: • Pronoun/article + adjective • Noun • Adverb + Verb • Pronoun/article + adjective • Noun
Exquisite Corpse 2 Choose one word each for the first sentence – do this simultaneously without consulting the others • (Article/pronoun + adjective): My green • (Noun): friend • (Adverb (if you want one) + verb): usually makes • (Article/pronoun + Second adjective): the best • (Second noun): Sunday Result: “My green friend usually makes the best Sunday”
TASK… • Post your Exquisite Corpses on the blog… • Make sure that they have an illustration! Use Google image search – you’ll be surprised what you might find if you use your imagination
Creative Non-fiction and Today’s genre Travel writing – one of many forms of creative non-fiction… Has to contain: ‘description and travel’ & ‘social life and customs’ Who writes travel writing? – Journalists & Fiction writers
Reader expectations The journalists have a strong interest in maintaining their credibility The fiction writers have more creative freedom Yet they must still confirm some kind of credibility (they must have some personal experience with the place the describe)
Examples of ‘literary travel writing’ • The Writer and the City series… • Peter Carey:30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (2001)
30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account • The titlerefers to David Messent’s classic guide to Sydney, Seven Days in Sydney • The subtitleillustrates the difference between a fiction writer and a journalist (this is a different kind of guidebook) • International editions change this dynamic: • By leaving out the subtitle • By (mis)translating the main title
What we expect from travel writing by a fiction writer… The writer should have a personal relationship to the place he/she describes We expect the account to rely on the writer’s experience and memory We expect some literal truthfulness (not necessarily expected in fiction by the same author)
What we expect from travel writing by a journalist The writer will try to be neutral and objective This is about something important, not (just) about the writer The sources will be made clear and their reliability will be assessed The reader can disagree, but there really is no point in doing so