Uncategorized | April 25, 2004

A friend of mine recently went to a job interview for a teaching position in creative writing at a university. To prepare, she bounced possible questions and ideas for answers off of me and I contributed ideas and said what I thought about her ideas. A wise friend of hers suggested that she should sell her craft in a vocational sense. But how do you sell writing as vocation? How do you tell those business majors how creative writing is going to help them sell hundreds of thousands of teddy bears or whatever?

We thought about it and decided that the best thing creative writing does for a young mind is teach it to anticipate. Look at it this way: You’re writing along and you’re character jumps off a bridge into some water. Now you have several options. The character could drown, he could miraculously surface and swim to safety, or your character could take flight mid-fall and fly to his or her villa in Tuscany to live happily ever after.

Regardless of which scenario you choose, you have to anticipate what will happen next. If your character drowns, you’re going to have to end the story or switch gears to another point of view. As the writer, you need to think about all this in advance. Otherwise, you’re going to be sitting there with a dead character on your hands saying to yourself, “Wait a tick, I just killed my character! Now he can’t go to college and become a dentist as I had planned!” If, on the other hand, your character takes flight mid-fall and flies to Tuscany, you’re going have to anticipate utter and complete mockery at your workshop.

Also, a good writer looks for problems as he or she goes along. A good writer creates a scene and writes to avoid problems with character development, tension, etc. A good writer anticipates problems and avoids them. Interestingly enough, so does a good businessperson.

A good businessperson, while creating a teddy bear prototype, says to herself, “If we glue this nose on, little kids are going to be chewing on the bear’s nose, pull this little nose thing off, and choke on it. And that wouldn’t be cool. Yeah, we should probably sew that sucker on.” In this way, the businessperson looks for possible problems during production, and also anticipates the consequences of his or her actions. And this good business person probably learned this valuable skill from a creative writing workshop after a group of vicious college students said, “What, were you trying to be funny with this character taking flight mid-fall? Because, dude, you’re not funny.”

Writing as vocation: it’s a beautiful thing.