Students should exercise their right to write

Jessa Bateman, Opinion Editor

In a 2002 New York Times article, a survey stated that 81% of Americans feel like they have a book inside them, and that they should write it. I am one of them.

Writing books is my passion. I have finished one and partially completed about four more. I mention this to someone, and they rave to me about how cool it is and say they want to write a book but have not gotten around to it yet.

This universal American dream lends itself to one simple project: include creative writing in English classes when available. Advanced Placement (AP) courses have strict curricula that do not easily enable the use of creative writing, particularly with the Dual Enrollment program.

Cheryl Connors, freshman English teacher, has her students write creatively 40% of the time. She has been asked numerous times to include more, but is limited on what she can do. These limits come from time and the curriculum.

40% of the time isn’t enough. For me, writing seems as vital as blood. I carry a notebook everywhere, write when I have time, think about it when I do not. It is a yearning I know I can never satisfy. I am okay with that.

Non-academic writing teaches life skills that cannot be learned any other way, though: how to plan, how to understand others’ motivations, the effects location has on a lifestyle, how to develop a written voice. We attempt to learn these things and wonder why we fail. We have not been using the correct teaching method.

Students have one way to frequently write creatively: take the Honors Creative Writing course.

There is only one section of Honors Creative Writing this year. It has eleven students.

One method of including more creative work in English classes as a concise unit is to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This event takes place each November. The objective is simple: write a 50,000 word book in one month.

The full event is intimidating. I have tried it twice, and have not finished either time. There happens to be a Young Writers’ Program (YWP) run by the same people, though. The concept is similar to NaNoWriMo. The twist is that it is aimed at teenagers and participants can choose what word count they want to reach over the course of the month.

The Honors Creative Writing class will participate in the YWP come November. I will also participate, with a goal to reach 20,000 words.

Connors could see using NaNoWriMo as a part of her classes if she could connect it to the curriculum. However, she feels that very few students at the freshman level could organize a novel.

The best way to fix that issue is to teach students how to organize a novel or short story, participate in whichever version of NaNoWriMo they choose, and then analyze the story afterwards using the literary terms they’ve learned (theme, mood, et cetera).

Two weeks could be spent organizing ideas and developing characters, plot, and setting. Approximately four weeks would be dedicated to writing their story, and another week could be spent editing it.

For me, applying the literary skills taught in English classes to my own writing is the best and fastest way to get the material to click. I remember it since I have applied it to something I love and want to spend the rest of my life doing.

Everyone can and should write about what interests them, regardless of skill level. It is impossible to become better without trying to improve.

Jennifer Castello, creative writing teacher, said that creative writing provides a way for students to express themselves. They have a lot of ownership over what they are making and thus care about it. Obviously, creative writing promotes creative thinking. Authors also learn a lot about themselves through the lens of what they write.

Michelle Bruland, AP Literature and Composition teacher, taught Honors Creative Writing for six years. Bruland said that creative writing lets people use their imagination and experience different writing styles.

“The five-paragraph essay is trite, overused. Students get so stuck in that form that they don’t know how to break out,” Bruland said.

One of the best ways to improve at an artistic craft is to experiment with different styles. Trying creative writing helps students learn more about the various methods of writing and gives them additional tools to utilize for academic writing.