What should a writing class teach?

Yesterday in class, our discussion was prompted by the question “What should writing classes teach?”. As an English and Professional Writing major, I often find myself reading quotes about writing (geeky, I know). One of my favorites is, and always has been, from Ernest Hemingway, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” As moving as those words are and as much as I want to agree with Hemingway, for most people a lot goes into getting to the point where there is seemingly nothing to writing. Yesterday a lot of people brought up the fact that many classes present writing in a way that makes it stressful for students; there is no “low stakes” writing, everything must be extremely precise and is usually graded. By constantly attaching such a negative connotation to writing, many students begin their college careers afraid to write at all. Additionally, some people mentioned the intimidation that comes with straying from the traditional academic paper and branching out to different genres. For me, being able to sit down and write a poem or short story is my greatest escape from day-to-day craziness. But, not everyone feels that way—not everyone is at a point where they can just sit down at a typewriter and bleed. So, while the nonchalant attitude described by Hemingway is definitely something for writing classes to work towards, I think it is important for teachers of writing to remember that for many students, more of a background is required.

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One thought on “What should a writing class teach?

  1. I really love how you acknowledge the different ways people feel about writing. Not everyone can just “bleed” as Hemingway put it. I am one of those people who struggle with writing. I feel like I need strict guidelines or I have no idea where to start, and this probably comes from the strict guidelines and grading from my previous classes. Therefore, I think writing classes should allow free writing in order to teach students to simply enjoy writing, and good writing will come from that.

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