ENGL 203: Introduction to Creative Writing

“Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry. . . Both are very hard work. Writing something is almost as hard as making a table. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood. Both are full of tricks and techniques. Basically very little magic and a lot of hard work are involved. And as Proust, I think, said, it takes ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration. I never have done any carpentry but it’s the job I admire most, especially because you can never find anyone to do it for you.”
—Gabriel García Márquez, in a 1981 interview with The Paris Review

Course Description, Spring 2020: Introduction to Creative Writing is an introductory course for students interested in developing basic techniques for writing poetry and fiction. The focus of our course will be on the work of writing, particularly revision and writing exercises. We will also be working on new pieces in this course—this is not the place to refine your fan fiction series or novel-in-progress. Another emphasis of this course will be reading and discussing the published creative and critical work of other writers/poets. If we don’t know what writing currently exists, how will we know what is fresh, innovative, and unexpected? Finally, I seek to strike a balance in this class between practical, nitty-gritty work and the philosophical dimension of writing (e.g. Why do we write? What are our moral/ethical obligations as writers? Can writing be taught/learned?). The goal here is not to answer such questions for-all-time, but to consider the craft of writing in its fullest form.

What We are “About” in this Course (aka Course Objectives)

  • Learning how a poem or piece of fiction can be put together, as well as how it can be taken apart, reimagined, and reassembled anew. We will do this through:
    • Reading and discussing a variety of poems and stories to learn from those who have gone before us.
    • Using writing exercises to develop new creative techniques and hone our own craft.
    • Strengthening our imaginative muscles through the process of revising and reimagining our own creative work and helping our colleagues do the same.
  • Dwelling with the idea that creative writing is an act of communication between writer and reader. How will you be a good writer-host to your reader-guest?
  • Accepting that not everything we write will be successful, and that’s okay. As Samuel Beckett said, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”