Creative Writing is a class that lends itself to a great deal of flexibility and experimentation. Throughout the year, I like to test run lessons and activities that will eventually find themselves as part of the CCSWP curriculum in the summer. Test runs are important since not all experiments end in success. Sometimes the writing diverges from the expected, and sometimes the directions or the topic stop up the pens altogether. This week, I tried something new, though I know there are a lot of similar variations out there in other CW classes or on writing web pages. I want to share this particular experiment since, in my opinion, it worked.
My focus for the lesson was "voice." "Voice," as a literary concept, is something that I have spent some time conceptualizing for myself. I've since taken that concept and used it in presentations to students and teachers alike. Without going through the entire presentation and explanation, I define voice as such: the unique expression of a common humanity.
For the exercise, I asked students to write three short paragraphs from three separate sentence starters: I was; I am; I will be.
"Define yourself as you were, are, and will be" I told the students. And they did, but I didn't collect what they wrote. I allowed those words to be sacred to them, something I often do.
But then I added a twist. I randomly paired the students and gave them the task of writing the same piece for someone else. They now had to write what their partner was, is, and will be.
"How?" they asked.
"By having a conversation," I answered. "And listening. You are attempting to capture that person's voice, not write an imitation of him or her."
The conversations started slowly, but eventually picked up. Some conversations never matured beyond friendly small talk while others were shockingly honest. Regardless, I was proud of the students for trying especially since many admitted that they were having his/her first ever conversation with his/her partner.
Here are a few samples of what they wrote about each other. I think that in these examples, there is definite voice starting to emerge.
I was alone. I felt like I had no one to relate or talk to. I felt like a freak, like I didn't belong.
I am alive. I don't think that there was a point in my life where I have been happier than I am right now. I'm able to hold my head up and keep it there.
I will be successful. I will travel the world. Discover and re-discover.
I was a child traveling constantly. From a young age, I instantly criticized myself, and the weight of society and my older brother's harsh words crushed by small fragile body.
I am ashamed of my youth being misspent as my feet are now cemented, restricted from the luxury of travel while there's still sights to be seen.
I will be famous. I will be famous. I will be famous. But if I am doomed to life without fame, I will help people and listen.
I was the guy in the shadows. A seed of a tree yet not growing. A child trying to get his name known by only talking behind closed doors.
I am a seed that has grown its roots out to others, little by little.
I will be a red oak tree, one that stands up high and others look at with amazement.