Six weeks into the semester, I can confidently say that I look forward to my two-hour creative writing seminar on Wednesdays more than any other class. Every Wednesday, I gaze out of the ceiling-to-floor windows in the light, modern corner room on the sixth floor of New South onto the rest of campus while I listen to the stories of my classmates. It always boggles my mind how, in the midst of all their studying, they still have the time to create their stories — each one original, an intriguing manipulation of the prompt given. The prompts, from creating a monologue to a “moment of being,” can be intentionally vague at times but allow the students to run away with their imaginations.
This freedom is something I wish every Princeton student could experience — in our quest to become future world leaders, doctors, businessmen, whatever, sometimes we lose the liberty to just think and write. Non-directed creative production is somewhat like participating in a sport or performing something — it’s a great release from the enormous academic burden on our shoulders. Creative writing is especially useful for those not majoring in English or Comparative Literature, since it not only improves writing ability but critical thinking ability as well.
As we get older, we lose our ability to imagine. Creative writing rescues that somewhat, and because it’s a small class, it provides a community of individuals I probably never would have otherwise encountered. Sure, there are some English-majors-soon-to-be-novelists in the class, but others of the 10 are Wilson School majors like me, and some even study things as quantitative as neurology. Somehow, the atmosphere created by the seminar provides a safe space where we can share our work and offer compliments as well as constructive criticism. (The PDF-only grading system helps as well.) And strangely enough, it’s working — I think we all are really becoming better writers. The criticism offered in this class is some of the most useful I’ve received on papers in my Princeton career. I have too often heard stories from friends receiving a B+ on a paper for an inexplicable reason, with the only comment being, “great work, but not quite there yet.” In contrast, creative writing is a workshop that actually assists in the editing process.
Moreover, it’s helped me process different, even personal, events of my life that are difficult for me to discuss, and it’s challenged me to do something different with my writing. Since I started the class, I notice that I’m paying closer attention to details in everyday life and trusting my words a bit more.
In short, creative writing has been well worth taking. I highly encourage every Princeton student to try it out, even if they’ve never done any creative writing before, and especially if they aren’t English majors.
I understand that the easiest objection to this is the creative writing program’s application process. My wish is that the creative writing program was more accessible and comparable in size to the writing seminar program. The writing seminar, though generally despised, definitely helps most Princeton students become satisfactory writers and thinkers — creative writing does the same, but in a different way. The nature of the class size is one of the most instrumental characteristics of the program, but if the system were expanded it could accept more applicants. The academic freedom provided by the creative writing seminar is one of my favorite aspects I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy thus far in my Princeton career.
Elise Backman is a sophomore from Sea Bright, N.J. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/19/31578/