Creative Writing Fast Becoming Lost Art for Most

Article excerpt

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Paul Bodin For The Register-Guard

Are we becoming a society that has lost its connection to writing?

How many of us write daily entries in a journal or diary? Or spend part of our evenings or weekends on a collaborative family history, a book of recipes or a collection of poems? Who among us looks forward to drafting a long, rambling story to a friend? Or keeps up a running chronicle of our child's new discoveries?

How many of us write for pleasure or for meaning these days?

This isn't a matter of not having enough time to fit writing into a day. People easily could put a dent into their daily diet of media to allow for personal writing. Family writing projects could add new meaning to parent- child or sibling collaboration. It could offer another way for people to unwind. So why does writing seem to be so rare a daily life activity?

You may have noticed in the opening questions an omission of chat room or typical e-mail writing. Some of us do a large amount of text-networking, and this is certainly one form of writing. But I'm talking about times when we decide to undertake writing projects that cause us to reflect, ponder, plan, interpret, add nuance to our thinking, revise our word choice and, at times, feel proud of our efforts. And where we choose to set a higher bar of quality in order to better communicate meaning and emotion. In this kind of writing, there is a willingness to not necessarily accept the first "rush" of conversational text.

As an educator, this issue intrigues me because most of us have experienced - some would say endured - years of school-based writing assignments, skill lessons and drills, tests and assessments that focused on our ability to write effectively. Did our years in school give us - beyond skills, prompts and assignments - an intrinsic reason to write?

I teach a university class that focuses on writing and literature curriculum for students who are preparing to join the next generation of elementary school teachers. At the end of each 10-week course, I ask them to evaluate their own progress as writers. This final assignment comes after an immersion into writing where students have explored its many dimensions - from carrying around a small writer's notebook to giving and receiving feedback in peer writing groups.

Year after year, I find that two-thirds or more of my students generally don't think of themselves as writers, nor do they choose to spend time developing their skills and voice as writers. Their honest self-eval uations are sobering and in stark contrast to the exuberance they demonstrate during the course, when they draft, refine and share original writing pieces with peers. …