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Home » Teaching as a Creative Act: Why the Workshop Works in Creative Writing Chapter 4, Anna Leahy

Teaching as a Creative Act: Why the Workshop Works in Creative Writing Chapter 4, Anna Leahy

Chapter 4 will take you on a journey to discover how a creative writing workshop can help you to develop your own creative voice, and how it can help your students to realise their creative potential.

Defining Creativity

For many of us, creativity is something that is inherent – something that we are born with. For others, it is a learned skill, something that we can train ourselves to be more aware of and to be able to express. However, no matter how you define it, creativity is something that we all possess and we can all explore – even if it is in a different way or to different degrees. In a creative writing workshop, you will encourage your students to be as creative as they can, giving them the confidence to explore new skills and ideas, and to try out new things. As a result, you will see your students’ work evolve, and change, as they grow and develop as writers. This is what makes a creative writing workshop so valuable – it is a space not just for students to express themselves, but for them to grow as creative individuals.

Towards a New Narrative

Whether you love it or hate it, literature is a narrative form. That is to say, it is a form that is built around a story, and stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. A story can focus on a specific incident, or it can tell the broader tale of a character’s life. In either case, there is a clear structure to a story: a clear beginning, middle, and end. This is what makes it possible for an author to take an already existing story and put it into a new form, creating a literary work that is entirely unique to him or herself. In a creative writing workshop, you will help your students to learn to tell stories in a way that is innovative and exciting, helping them to develop as storytellers and literary creators.

Developing Confidence

In the same way that we have all learned to speak a different language, everyone has different writing skills and some of us are much better at expressing ourselves through our writing than others. This is why you should always encourage your students to give their work its own voice, and to try out new things – what will be more interesting to you, as a teacher, will be to encourage your students to try out new things, and to see what works and what doesn’t work for them as writers. In a low-stakes writing environment, this is what will develop your students’ confidence: they will get feedback on their work, and be able to see the benefits of their hard work, but they will not be held back by the fear of making a mistake. This is crucial if they are to develop their freedom of expression, and to see writing not just as a means of communication but as a form of self-expression that can be used to explore different ideas, questions, and viewpoints.

Expanding Awareness

If you are reading this, I assume that you are already aware of some of the benefits of a creative writing workshop. What you may not be so aware of is how much more there is to it than simply encouraging your students to write. A creative writing workshop is a space not just for your students to write their stories and develop their skills, but for you to teach them about different literary forms, about new ways of storytelling, and about the creative process itself. This is what makes it essential that you attend one: not only will it help you personally as you grow as a writer, but it will help you to inspire and guide your students as they develop their own creative voices.

A Place to Re-energise

For many of us, Monday to Friday represent the working week, and although we love our jobs and the people we work with, we sometimes struggle to find the motivation to do our work – even if we are genuinely interested in what we are teaching. Working through our students’ creative material on a weekly basis provides a perfect opportunity to re-energise, to remember why we are there, and to get a new perspective on our work. If we see our students struggling with a specific story or novel, we can bring it up again in a way that is relevant to them and their circumstances, helping them to understand it in a different way, and hopefully inspiring them to find new ways of looking at their own work, and their own potential. This is what makes a creative writing workshop a valuable tool not just for developing your students’ writing skills but for improving their quality of work, and their enthusiasm for the subject matter altogether.