Presenting and feedback
A very important part of the creative writing process generally is presentation of texts for feedback to be incorporated in re-writes. For language training this opens up a range of possibilities, from suggestions for improvement of the text to group discussions.
What can we write?
There are no limits in creative writing as far as genre is concerned. Students can try short stories, dialogue in short dramatic scenes and poems. The main constraint is time and therefore space: most texts will have to be relatively short.
For this reason it may be useful to focus on poetry as perhaps the most condensed of all the possible genres. It also has the double advantage that the brevity of poems allows us to write a first draft (or much of it) in class and to present a text in class with discussion.
The problem with poetry is that many teachers are uneasy about it because they see it as the most sublime form of writing. For students this is much less of a problem and their writing of poems can be become rather impressive once they realise that formal constraints, especially rhyme, are not indispensable for a good poem.
What comes first, reading or writing?
When we use creative writing for "creative" reading, one of the central issues is what comes first, reading or writing.
Obviously this depends on the activity. If we try an activity like making characters of a narrative of a play meet "outside the text", we clearly need to know the text, the characters and their circumstances well before we can write about such a meeting. The same is true if students are asked to write a "what-would-have-happened-if" ending.
On the other hand, if we want to get students to write a text similar to a literary one, either formally or in terms of ingredients (characters, scenes, conflicts, experiences, etc.) the case is less clear: should students write first and then compare their results with the literary text or should they study the text and then write their own? The second approach may not work very well here. The canonical text may dominate too much, and the student result may be just a weak copy or, worse, students may be blocked entirely. However, very interesting work may result if the students explore a theme, conflict, or experience and then consider how an established writer has dealt with the same theme, conflict or experience.
So, Creative writing …
is not the only way to breathe new life into a language class but provides interesting, lively opportunities for language practice.
is not uncontrolled and uncontrollable verbal doodling but requires precision and accuracy in expression and vocabulary.
is not writing about anything and everything but allows us to focus on specific ideas, forms or literary texts
is not intimidatingly out of reach for most of us but creates opportunities for students to explore their language and their imagination
is not a substitute or a replacement for oral communication but represents a lively, stimulating way to give new meaning to a somewhat lesser used language skill.