On Being Easy

In their final papers, many of my students admitted that they entered the semester with the notion that Intro. to Creative Writing would lead to an easy A and not require a lot of work. Well, they were surprised by assignments that were rigorous and demanding. Why do students expect creative writing to be so easy?

In their final papers, many of my students admitted that they entered the semester with the notion that Intro. to Creative Writing would lead to an easy A and not require a lot of work. Well, they were surprised by assignments that were rigorous and demanding.

Why do students expect creative writing to be so easy? Why hasn’t the discipline earned the same level of academic respect as composition or English literature?

In grad school, as the only MFA student in a composition pedagogy class filled with students studying (you guessed it!) composition pedagogy, I spent an entire semester researching this. I knew that my professor looked down on me, and I worked hard to prove to everyone that I was indeed a serious student and that my expertise was worth something.

I came to the conclusion that creative writing as an academic discipline isn’t taken seriously because a lot of people practice creative writing as a hobby. Few people write theses about postmodernism in their spare time or do rocket science in their basements. But anyone can write creatively, which is why a lot of my students came with the attitude that they already knew what they were doing.

However, in a world over-saturated with information, creative writers who actually want to be read must learn the techniques that will charm an audience. That is no easy task. And very few people can do it well.

Many of my students don’t think they will ever utilize creative writing in the workplace. But they are so sorely mistaken. Skills that students learn in creative writing are both practical and valuable. In fact, these skills can give an ambitious employee an edge over his/her coworkers or other people in the job applicant pool.

Just last week, my boss at my other job asked me to help him with a presentation that had nothing to do with creative writing. But, to make the presentation more interesting, I included a sample script with imaginary characters. My boss and I agreed that this would make the presentation more palatable. I mean, what’s the point of a presentation if no one pays attention to it?

Creative writing is not an easy A because I never graded the students’ creativity. Each one of my students expressed his or her creativity, in varying degrees. I gave them feedback about how they could improve the effectiveness of their message or push their imaginations.

Over the course of the semester, many of them were confused about their grade standing because I wasn’t giving any letter grades. But their final grades were based on whether or not they completed assignments, came to class consistently and on time, and followed directions.

When many students failed to complete assignments, come to class consistently and on time, and follow directions – yet still expected an easy A – I realized just how little respect students have for creative writing. Wouldn’t any other professor of any other discipline expect and enforce the same policies?

Creative writers may never find the cure for cancer or solve world hunger, but they may be able to write about those things in such a way that inspires the right person for the job.

(Photo by howieluvzsus)

3 thoughts on “On Being Easy”

  1. My Intro to Creative Writing class as well as Intro to Fiction were, for lack of a better term, a joke. One of the biggest things that I feel Creative Writing classes should teach is developing plots and self-critiquing which many classes do not do. My class consisted of us writing poems and stories with absolutely no direction on how to go, just a brief explanation of a topic that we should write on, which is one of the biggest reason’s why people do not take Creative Writing seriously.

    Anybody can write creatively but to do it in an entertaining fashion is a completely different story. What is missing in the world of Creative Writing is the teachers who do more than ask student’s to do writing prompts, it is teaching those technical things that most people do not see from the outside.

    Great article, I am glad you are breaking the mold Creative Writing teachers created before you 🙂

  2. Most students who take creative writing are simply LAZY! Yes, your definitely right that most autmatically think they should get an easy A, but most don’t even just put in time to turn in assignments on time or show up to class. If those students were “smart enough”, they’d understand to get that A, they pretty much only need to:

    1) show up to class and
    2) finish assignments on time and
    3) participate in class (aka speaking up)

    Most creative writing instructors I’ve met overall follow this criteria, and I’m not gonna lie, a student who complains about his/her grade and didn’t do all of the above, should not deserve in A. Also, only writing a crappy one page creative paper (let’s say out of required 5 pages), even on time, does not merit an A.

    Overall conclusion is students are LAZY! No wonder America’s education system is faltering, both in the creative and hard work categories.

  3. The problem isn’t necessarily that creative writing is seen as an “easy A” type of class. The problem is that too many students feel entitled to easy As in any field. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard my classmates complaining about how unfair the professor supposedly was for having the audacity to expect them to do work.

    The majority of classes I’ve taken as an undergrad have factored participation into the final grade, but somehow there always seem to be a few kids who think that just because they graced us with their presence on the day of the final and aced it, that should cover their grade for the whole semester. If a class is discussion-based and they haven’t added anything to the discussion, why should they do as well as those of us who’ve actually put in the effort? It’s not only about proving they’ve mastered the material, it’s about bringing something to the table that could enrich the whole class. If they can’t be bothered to do that, then they haven’t earned full credit. What about that is so hard to understand?

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