Don’t Make Writing Punishment

I’ve been an adjunct artist at Tacoma School of the Arts for the past nine years. In this position, I get to “teach” creative writing to high school students.

I use the term “teach” loosely. I think, instead, I’m more of a facilitator. I encourage experimentation, let students sample processes, and promote the notion that writing may be the best lifelong hobby/therapy/entertainment you could ask for.

That’s right, I strive to make writing FUN.

So many students come into my classes with the mindset that writing is punishment. Of course they do. If they did something wrong in elementary school, they had to write sentences. If they performed poorly on a test, they had to write an extra term paper. If they got caught talking in class, they were assigned an essay on the virtue of silence. For so many, writing has become a penalty.

I spend a lot of time in my class, retraining those students to understand that writing can be fun and beautiful and creative.

Not every piece of writing is going to turn into the Great American Novel and I’m more realistic than to think many of my students will go onto earn their livings as writers. But I know for a fact, that many have taken the lessons from my class and made writing a regular part of their post-high school and post-college lives. Some are journaling, blogging or cartooning. Some are using writing to share joy and heal heartache. For some, words are the best way to connect with friends or revisit memories.

No matter how they use words, my heartfelt wish is that they find the process of writing both stimulating, rewarding and, yes, fun.

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