I’ve had to do a lot of inanely boring tasks in pursuit of my $8/hr, but this one is really killing me

by Janie Jones

So my boss is teaching a creative writing class this spring.  Apparently she used to teach one but she says it’s been about 20 years.  I don’t know why she was given a creative writing course this semester after all those years.  I didn’t ask.  I don’t really care and I’m really not one bit curious.  I get paid no matter what she teaches, and as she’s generally a great person to work for, and is grateful for all the boringly tedious jobs I do in her stead, it’s basically all the same to me.

At first I thought, “Oh, creative writing.  This should be interesting and fun.”

The class hasn’t even started yet and I am now so sick to death of it I hope with all my soul that I will have as little to do with it as possible.

Surprised?  Me too.

Curious as to why?  Well, I’ll assume you are or you would just stop reading.

First, the textbook is absolutely written to pander to the lowest common denominator.  Now, having helped for 5 semesters with the basic freshman composition classes, I know there’s a lot of people out there who manage to make it through high school who couldn’t write a clear, coherent, grammatically correct account of pouring a bowl of Frosted Flakes for breakfast, much less make it interesting.  These people need textbooks which write in three and four letter words and studiously avoid anything exceeding two or three syllables.  They need to be told the ridiculous basics such as a complete sentence must have a noun and a verb.  But most of these students are just hoping to get through the class because it’s required for pretty much every “degree” and certificate program under the sun.  They don’t aspire to be writers.  However, this class is one students freely choose to take, presumably because they want to be writers. So, I feel they deserve and also need a higher caliber textbook; one that is going to challenge their intellect, make them think harder, one that assumes they are more than just mouth-breathing vegetables whose only experience with writing thus far is what they recently tweeted about, they need a class and a textbook that goes beyond the blatantly obvious.  This book is supposedly teaching people to be better creative writers. It kinda makes me vomit a bit in my mouth when the book is telling people things like how it’s important to use specific and descriptive words instead of vague, boring words, or how your work must exhibit tension and energy or it will not hold a reader’s interest.  I’m really sorry, but seriously?  Isn’t this kind of like saying the sky is blue?  If you really are someone who wants to be a creative writer shouldn’t this be something you instinctively understand?  In my mind it seems like if you had to be told this, you probably don’t belong in this class.  Naturally I see there is real value examining these concepts and practicing building your skill at these things, but if you don’t already realize their importance you’ve missed your calling.

Secondly, it seems to me that this author chose to write this textbook on how be a creative writer because she couldn’t hack it as one herself.  Her text book is boring to read, none of the pieces she uses as examples are remotely interesting to me, and she rambles and beats the dead horse of her various points into hamburger as if she was getting paid by the word.  Furthermore, both she and her editor seem to love incomplete sentences and, while I am definitely not an expert on comma placement, even I want to gouge my eyes out at all the superfluous commas not to mention all the dashes and miscellaneous and unnecessary punctuation sprinkled with great abandon throughout the text.  As my “job” over the holiday break was to type all the practice assignments and exercises in the textbook so my boss will be able to upload them to the online classroom, both myself and Microsoft’s grammar checker are having bona fide conniption fits at all these grammar and linguistic inconsistencies.   I have four more chapters to transcribe.  I hope the grammar checker doesn’t decide to crash and take MS Word with it, but, on the other hand, then I’d be able to get out of finishing this project.

The only thing worse to me than imagining what kind of assignments the students might conceive as a result of “learning” from this textbook is imagining that they might actually suppose that it gave them a good education on the creative writing process.  While I’m up on my soap box, I’d just like to say that if this textbook is the drivel that passes for a solid primer in training new and upcoming authors, then it is plain to see why 90% of them aren’t worth reading, much less the razing of entire forests of trees to produce the paper their “work” is printed on.  I don’t think it is necessary or even stimulating to read modern creative writing that is chock full of pattern pieces, initiations, and slang.  As I consider the classics, there are many authors who had exceptionally engaging works that still upheld the traditions of solid grammar and freely and unapologetically used multisyllabic words that engage one’s intellect whilst still entertaining.  I can’t help but feel this textbook does a sorry disservice to aspiring writers.  It implies that conventions of grammar and intellect in writing are not necessary, that you can hide behind “creativity” and ignore what makes a good writer stand out:  How to use the English language to it’s fullest potential.

If I ever find myself in a post apocalyptic world in which I have to stay warm by fire, I would seriously cry having to burn books to keep warm.  But, that said, I’d not loose one ounce of sleep flinging this textbook on the fire.  Heck, I might just burn it for the fun once the semester is over.

I’ll get down of my soap box now.  I still have to brave my way through 4 more chapters.

Someone please pass the Pepto.  I just read the first assignments in Chapter 7, and I feel sick.

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One Comment to “I’ve had to do a lot of inanely boring tasks in pursuit of my $8/hr, but this one is really killing me”

  1. I think writing is like playing the piano. Unless you have a natural talent, everything is just glorified chopsticks.

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