If there’s one thing I’ve realized in my few weeks as a columnist, it’s that writing is hard, and writing creatively is even harder.
I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone in my struggle to be creative. As Penn students, we’re taught to be analytical and pragmatic in our writing. Our professors seldom call upon us to write a creative essay. For this reason, Penn students should take advantage of the courses that make this type of writing a priority, like those offered by the Creative Writing Program.
I’ve seen countless friends strive to craft original, personal writing. They’re trying to formulate the perfect cover letter for their dream job. They’re drafting and re-drafting personal statements for graduate school or fellowship applications. It’s not easy to come up with an original way to portray yourself, especially one that will hold the reader’s interest. Creative writing classes can get students on the right track when it comes to writing about themselves.
“It’s knowing what words work well together, what images are resonant,” said Gregory Djanikian, director of the Creative Writing Program.
Creative writing classes can complement every major at Penn. Wharton students can practice skills that will help them in writing a marketing pitch or a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis. Those interested in the entertainment industry can turn to courses in screenwriting for writing practice and script critiquing. Politicos can register for classes like “Political Commentary” or “Long Form Journalistic Writing.”
In addition to sparking creativity, the program also offers students the opportunity to be in small classes. I’m not talking a smaller lecture, where the professor might know your name by the end of this semester. I’m talking about the 15-person seminar, where everyone knows everyone’s name. In these intimate classes, the students build genuine relationships with professors and each other.
“All of the classes are small, so very personal,” echoed Alyssa Birnbaum, a College senior majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing. “We all share things and that puts you in a vulnerable position. You get close with people very quickly.”
Students who enroll in creative writing courses profit from the workshop style, which revolves around sharing your work with the community. It can be nerve-wracking sometimes — I’m reminded of it each week as I write my column — but it’s an important part of life.
Everyone has to be prepared to receive both praise and criticism from his or her peers. Let’s be honest — it’s not always easy. But being able to take criticism gracefully and apply it well is a necessity in the work force. By being placed in this situation each week, students are better preparing themselves for life after college.
Additionally, the ability to give another person a frank, constructive critique of his or her work will prove to be highly useful in the long term. Whether you’re a lawyer reviewing a contract, an entrepreneur reading a business proposal or a professor offering students feedback, you will need to know the best way to evaluate and comment on another person’s work.
A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education stated that many universities were pressured by their administrations to expand the sizes of their creative writing classes, which strongly conflicts with their workshop model.
Students in creative writing classes at Penn should count their blessings. “Creative writing workshops are capped at 15 and have been for as long as I can remember,” Djanikian said. There is zero pressure from the administration to expand the sizes.
Students should realize that the skills they pick up in these small creative writing classes transcend the subject itself. So take note and drop a creative writing class in your course cart.
Sabrina Benun is a College senior from Santa Monica, Calif. Her e-mail address is benun@theDP.com. Last Call appears every Friday.Comments powered by Disqus
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