You know, I never really enjoyed creative writing. At least not in a rigorous academic setting. It’s deeply funny and slightly surreal for me to say that given that, going into college, I was quite convinced I would pursue creative writing as a major. Or at least somewhat seriously. Maybe even as a, gosh, career choice! But a poor experience in a fiction writing class here served up a heavy dose of realization and crippling self doubt that hurt my ego in the same way that, I don’t know, being slapped in the face with a cold, dripping sea bass might feel. It was a bummer, no doubt, but also perhaps an important wake up call. It instilled a belief in me that writing creatively under the pressure of deadlines, criticisms, workshops and grades does not facilitate natural and impactful prose. At least not in myself. If anything, it brought to light many underlying anxieties I had about my writing style and voice. My over reliance on certain tropes, my limited diction and the derivativeness of my concepts. I am a staunch believer in that you cannot be taught or even instructed how to write ‘creatively’ or, for that matter, be creative in the first place. Creativity is like a special little ethereal creature that has to actually exist deep inside you in the first place – it has to be a part of your make-up as an individual. Being taught what is wrong and right in that delicate realm – what models to work from and what habits to get rid of – all seems quite counterintuitive to me. I firmly believe that to encourage creativity and to thus let it grow there should be a responsibility of providing the adequate time, space, resources and sources of inspiration to ensure people are as comfortable as can be when letting those little creatures run wild. Anyway, this is a debate for another time and place.
I felt all that was important to establish in order to provide my true, visceral feelings on the avatar project. The project in itself is a compelling and highly innovative way to force students to engage with history in a more involved and personal way. For that I applaud it with true sincerity.
However, I couldn’t help but shake off the feeling that it was all a sort of creative writing project. At least for me, that is. Yes there were certain rules and criteria to abide by, the purposes of which I completely acknowledge and understand. But I saw these as a double-edged sword of sorts. On one hand they helped me, and I’m sure many others, ground their characters’ stories in somewhat believable timelines and realities. On the other, I felt like they were too easy for me to rely on as safety nets for a character I wasn’t entirely sure how to continue to develop. In this sense, they brought out some unprecedented contrivances in my avatar and thus writing style. But that’s just viewing it all from a strictly creative writing point of view. As important historical markers that challenged students to engage with them in whatever ways they saw fit, they helped me understand the often complicated and intertwined trajectories of the course by providing a somewhat clear path through the themes we dealt with.
Aside from worrying that my avatar was beginning to unveil my true voice a little too much, I did enjoy embarking on this one-of-a-kind project and hold its value in high regards in relation to what I learned from Dirty Wars.