Saturday, October 29, 2011

What's Your Take on Creative Writing Classes?

QOTD: If you have ever taken a creative writing class (or any sort of writing class) before, what was your experience? If you have not taken a writing class, would you want to?

College students have an average of 12 different "What am I gonna do with my life?!" spasms per semester.* So far I've only had about two or three, which isn't that many, comparatively. As class registration begins for next semester, however, I think there's a fourth spasm that is beginning to boil just underneath the surface at the moment. 

Technically, I'm a Journalism and Psychology double major with a minor in Creative Writing - at the moment. (Fun fact: Most college kids change their majors around three to four timess**). I say "at the moment" because...wait, for it.........I think I may be dropping my Creative Writing minor. 

*gasp* I know, I know...I have been wanting to take Creative Writing courses for the longest time. It hasn't helped that I have tried twice to enroll into our Intro to Fiction class...and then failed both times. Now, all of a sudden I'm second-guessing this long-term desire of mine. (Talk about drastic life-changing decisions, right?)

The thing is, I'm starting to question my previous motives for wanting to take a Creative Writing course. Is it critique? Is it praise? Is it the desire for my writing to be shredded into pieces? Is it a community of literary students in which we can all mutually give advice on our work? Is it a professor who will teach me how to write creatively? 

My answer to all of these questions is: maybe. But I'm starting to wonder, will these things really make me a better writer? And the truth is, I'm starting to think no, no they won't. 

What it all comes down to is that I don't want my motivation for writing "well" (whatever that means) to be attached to my GPA grade. Writing is supposed to be for the writer, and I can't help but feel like accommodating my work to satisfy the preferences of others--peers or teacher--actually belittles what I am writing. Also, I tend to be really competitive as well as self-conscious about my writing. In a Creative Writing class, I feel like I would get too caught up in trying to write something that's "better" or "more unique" or "more descriptive" than anyone else's...and then in the process, I would lose myself. I wouldn't be writing for myself anymore. 

And, for me at least, it's when I write solely for myself and nobody else that I actually grind out something relatively decent. 

Another issue I have with creative writing classes deals with the fact that there is somebody else grading your work. I REALLY, really don't like the idea of teachers (or people in generally, really) thinking they have the power to declare whether or not a particular piece of art (visual, literary, or other) is "good" or "bad" or "has value," much less label it with a letter or number grade, like "This story gets an A-" or "This poem seems like a 91 to me." As far as I'm concerned, as long as that art matters to somebody, then it has immeasurable value and worth. 

Of course, I'm definitely not saying that critique is bad or you should only focus on what you think is important in your writing. Having people you trust look over your work and tell you their honest opinions is one of the most essential parts of the revision process. You get to find out if the meaning you are trying to convey in your writing actually gets through to your audience. You are able to realize what sticks out to others and what doesn't, what needs more emphasis and clarification and what just doesn't work at all. 

The thing is, I am all for critique and feedback and even peer editing and workshops...just not in a class setting. I prefer to consult my sister or my closest friends about my work, because I know that they will tell me like it is, they will still love me even if my writing doesn't click at all with them and they won't try to compete with me for a good grade. There's less pressure, and you can be yourself without having to feel like you need to write a certain way to please somebody else.

So maybe Dr. Fate purposely made me fail at registration--though I did get every other class I wanted except for Creative Writing. Besides, I think Journalism and Psychology is enough to deal right now. At least until my next life-decisions spasm. :)

What do you think? I have never taken a Creative Writing class before, so my thoughts and assumptions could be totally off. Regardless, I would love to hear about your experiences and opinions with Creative Writing classes. 

*This statistic is purely based on my observations and has not been scientifically proven. 

**This statistic has been mentioned in various studies dealing with college life. 


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Be a Bold Writer

QOTD: Are you participating in National Novel Writing Month?

Before I get on with today's topic, I'd just like to point out that NaNoWriMo will be here ONE WEEK! For those of you who have no clue what this amazing event is, it's a month-long challenge to write 50,000 words' worth of a novel in the course of November. It's fun, it's crazy, it's illuminating, it's life-changing. And that's not an exaggeration either. 

I've been tweeting like mad and following accounts like FigmentFiction and WriMos FTW! just to get myself hyped up about NaNo. (Seriously guys, unless you've been keeping up with my blog since last November, you have no idea how intense I get around this time of the year!) I've become obsessed with looking up literary blogs, and I have an entire folder in my Bookmarks dedicated to online NaNoWriMo articles that I've collected from the Internet. 

Seriously! Come. Join. I guarantee that if you stick with it, in the end you won't regret having done it. Well-l-l maybe you might, but it'll definitely be an experience you'll never forget. :) 


I'll be focusing a lot on writing this month and the next (not surprisingly), and today I've thought a lot about why it's important to be a bold writer. What do I mean by being a bold writer? 

Bold writers...
  • aren't afraid to take chances
  • create characters, make them come alive and then put them in situations that take them out of their comfort zone
Bold writers...
  • take those characters to places that they normally wouldn't think of going in their worlds, and then take a step back to see what happens
  • don't use cliches--they make their own. 
Bold writers are able to make their stories become so alive and full of truth that it's impossible for a reader to forget. 

As writers, we have all the tools we need to do what we do. We use a collection of our thoughts and feelings, our experiences and our imagination. We use our mind. This is both luxuriating and terrifying, because if we are the controllers of our own minds, surely we can create anything we want?

Bold writers aren't afraid to take advantage of all the tools they need to create something. They scoop all of these tools up and chisel away until they're raw and dull and in need of a good sharpening again--use them with full force and maybe shoot them out one after another like bullets emitting out of a gun or all at once like a great big cannonball. They don't know what they might end up with when it's all said and done and, quite frankly, they don't give a damsel-in-distress about staying sophisticated or rational. They dive into their work. 

This coming November, let's all be bold writers. Let's step out of our normal boundaries and create characters that in the real world would have never crossed each other's pathways--and let's make them cross those paths. Let's see what happens when we toss all cares aside and do whatever the heck we want with the tools we have. Let's find out what we can create when rationality is crumpled up, stomped on and tossed over our shoulders. 


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Happy National Day on Writing!

I cannot remember a single moment in my life when I did not love words and writing and literature. And I simply cannot imagine a life in which I did not write...I have tried and I can't. I write because I have no choice. 

Language in the form of writing has always amazed me with its power. There are no limitations as to what I can write and how I can use it. When I journal or string words into poetry or create characters in their own little worlds, I feel limitless. Reading over my works constantly teaches me things about myself and about life that I otherwise would not have known. My lifelong goal is to use the power of words to inspire others with the story of my past, share with them my belief that weaknesses can be turned into strengths and encourage them to accept each other’s differences. 

I write to show people they are not alone, and I write to keep myself sane. Without writing, I would have little purpose in this world. 

This is why I write. Tell us your story. Happy National Day on Writing


Monday, October 17, 2011

Back from Blog Break

As you've probably noticed, I have been Missing in Action for the last couple of weeks and I haven't been keeping up with my blogging schedule. There are two reasons for this: 
  • I had two exams, two papers and a quiz due last week. This terrible pile of to-dos have been consuming 80% of my mind. Another 10% of my mind has been on consumption of food, and the other 10% has been on sleep.
  • I came up with TOO MANY blog post ideas! And one of the worst feelings ever is thinking up of so many great ideas and then not having the time to work on any of them. 
Well fall break is nearly upon me now, in which I will be working to improve my blog, namely: update pages and plan out each week's blog post topics. I am also going to work on creating my own graphics, taking more of my own photos, condensing labels, replying back to comments faster and visiting other blogs (which I already do a lot of but I don't take the time to comment as much I as I want to). During various periods of procrastination, I've actually found a handful of new, wonderful blogs to follow and I can't wait to explore them all.

Most importantly, I am going to focus on a new motivation for writing (not just blog posts, but personal journal entries, stories, poetry and articles). Instead of focusing on pleasing my readers and wondering about the amount of audience/attention a particular blog entry will receive, I'm going to write for myself. 

From immersing myself within my tumblr these past few days, I realized that my most genuine and honest writing emerges from inside of me when I think about nothing except what I am passionate about and what I believe in. Of course, I have always written from the heart, but I think that we all have had times when we worried more about what other people will thought than what we ourselves thought. I am going to change this mindset, and let's see what happens.

Regular blog posts will begin tomorrow! 

Should I keep Questions of the Day? Are they helpful in getting you as a reader thinking, or do they just divert your attention away from the actual blog post? What sort of articles, resources or changes would you like to see at TRA Blog? 


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rest In Peace, Steve Jobs.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dies at 56

Every once in a while, an event as tragic as Steve Jobs' death compels us to stop what we're doing and be reminded of how fragile life is--but also how beautiful it can be. Thanks for everything, Steve Jobs. You will forever be remembered. 

 “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. 

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, or living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. Most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
— Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement 2005

iPod. iPhone. Apple. Mac. These are the types of innovations and corporations Steve Jobs helped found during his lifetime, which we use for our pleasure and take for granted every day. But his legacy is not just made up of these tangible materials. His creativity and genius has been a constant source of inspiration for not only technologists but people everywhere all over the globe. Less seriously, he proved to everybody that nerdy nerds can turn into great nerds, and then those great nerds turn into great men. 

And, by God, Steve Jobs was a great man. 

Rest In Peace, Steve Jobs. You were a truly remarkable human being, and your powerful technological contributions will never be forgotten. You changed the world. 


Sunday, October 2, 2011

WWW: Why Websites Wule

QOTD: If you could choose to live any one decade from history, which one would you want to live through and why?

We live in a digital age. Smartphones, iPads, social networking, GPS systems, Skype...all of that is a part of this generation. The Internet is not just a hobby for us anymore. It's a lifestyle. We have changed the ways in which we communicate with others and share our ideas. While I will always have a soft spot for the printed media (in fact, I vow to never buy a Kindle), seeing the effects that this has had on the way our society interacts has been nothing short of remarkable. 

Nowadays, we are able to discuss our opinions through forums and can even comment on blogs and Yahoo articles. Those are our outlets of discussion, and I personally think they are a lot easier than debating face-to-face, which can be intimidating. I know I feel more nervous about speaking my mind with people when I am with them...but the Internet is different. You can think before you type and there's a lot less pressure of writing certain opinions. You can think the matter through, and you don't need to endure of those awkward moments or be aware of certain social cues.

I have an especial affinity towards blogs (which may not come as surprising). Unfortunately, people tend to view blogs as less formal, which is probably due to the fact that basically anybody can post and write anything they want online via outlets such as Wordpress, tumblr and even Facebook statuses. Yet, at the same time, anybody can type something on Word and print that out too and staple it and call it a magazine. Just because you write for a magazine's blog doesn't mean you're not writing for the magazine, because you are. Just through a different medium. Insightful and informative blogs may not be magazines, and they may not be the daily newspaper, but they deserve respect too. In many ways, they are currently shifting the way we as a people think and perceive the world more than any other media today. 

If anything, the Internet has made the spread of news and opinions even better. It's faster, easier and more convenient. Every time a major world event occurs, the news goes viral online. This leads to discussion, communication and notification to other citizens all over the world in a matter of hours, even moments. (Don't tell me you didn't Tweet about Bin Laden's death.) The spread of the news is instant. In the past, perhaps people would have called each other's friends on the phone, and citizens would have waited until the next day's issue of the newspaper came out with more details. Now, we barely have to wait long before the AP comes out with a new updated article online. 

Of course, that's not to say we should all sit on our butts all day staring at the computer screen replying to the comments on Yahoo articles. I just thought I'd point out some of the meritorious effects that the Internet has had on society, since I am constantly going ga-ga over books and rejecting new technology. But enough of my chatter. I'd love to know what you think. 

How has the Internet changed the way you send and receive news? Has it been an asset or hindrance to your life? 

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