When a teacher assigns a creative writing project…

Max writes: I am in a GT class for Reading/English at school and today we learned that we have to participate in three different programs that involve using our creative writing skills. While I am very excited for this oppurtunity, I am also a little nervous. The due dates are October 25, 31,and November 2nd. To me, this is a very short time. I understand that a page or two is not that long, but I don’t know where to begin. Did you ever participate in writing events when you were younger? I looked in your biography and it just spoke of your interest in foreign cultures and the Haiku poem style. I was just wondering if there is more depth to it. And, would you maybe have some advice for rushing into a story and coming out with good work?

When I was in high school I wrote dreadful, depressed poetry for the school literary magazine and I was the editor of the sports page of the school newspaper. I had no plans on becoming an author, not even the faintest hint of an idea. And I never entered any contests or tried to have my work published or participated in any “writing events”. Make of that what you will.

No, you don’t have much time. In a way, that’s good. You don’t have time to be nervous! Sit down and start writing about how frustrated and anxious you are about all of this. Rant on the page. Complain, whine. Whatever you do – keep writing. (Give yourself a solid two hours for this – two hours without distraction or interruption.) Keep writing, writing, writing.

As you start pouring your heart on the page, other things will float out alongside the whining and complaining. It might be a detail about something the kid in the first row wore yesterday, or the smell of the pencil in your hand or the sound of the people in the apartment upstairs fighting again and how much you wish they would either yell loud enough that you could understand exactly what they’re saying or quiet down so you don’t hear anything at all, and what would it feel like to climb up the fire escape and sit outside their window and offer color commentary on their argument, like a sportscaster, except you would use a banana instead of a microphone. This would get you thinking about bananas and why we eat them and how far they have to travel to wind up in your cereal bowl and that sure is a lot of effort for seventy-nine cents a pound.

Anyway. If I got that assignment, that’s how I’d handle it. Pour out some raw drafts. Don’t think about what you’re going to write. Just write. Then you edit, but that’s the subject of another post.

I hope that helps.

21 Replies to “When a teacher assigns a creative writing project…”

  1. Thanks for the advice. I’m kind of in the same situation as Max right now so I was really happy to see this. My creative writing teacher assigned us a short story, with only like a week to do it, and we have to enter it in a writing contest at the local library. I have the beginning of the story, but then I started hitting sort of a block. Maybe I’ll try what you said about just sitting somewhere quiet and writing without distractions.

  2. Thanks for the advice. I’m kind of in the same situation as Max right now so I was really happy to see this. My creative writing teacher assigned us a short story, with only like a week to do it, and we have to enter it in a writing contest at the local library. I have the beginning of the story, but then I started hitting sort of a block. Maybe I’ll try what you said about just sitting somewhere quiet and writing without distractions.

  3. Thanks for the advice. I’m kind of in the same situation as Max right now so I was really happy to see this. My creative writing teacher assigned us a short story, with only like a week to do it, and we have to enter it in a writing contest at the local library. I have the beginning of the story, but then I started hitting sort of a block. Maybe I’ll try what you said about just sitting somewhere quiet and writing without distractions.

  4. Thank you, thank you Max for that great question and for a great answer, Laurie. I have the same exact problem, but my writting has prompts we have to fufill. This should help me get started…

  5. Thank you, thank you Max for that great question and for a great answer, Laurie. I have the same exact problem, but my writting has prompts we have to fufill. This should help me get started…

  6. Thank you, thank you Max for that great question and for a great answer, Laurie. I have the same exact problem, but my writting has prompts we have to fufill. This should help me get started…

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