Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Who Do You Write For?

I'm skipping my creative writing class right now. Shh, don't tell!

Except that it's university and no one gives a crap if you go to class or not.

Anyway, there is a specific reason why I chose to skip this class. A specific, writing-related reason.

My creative writing class is taught by a guy, probably mid-forties, who lives in East Vancouver (an area that used to be really seedy and is now really trendy), who is a poet and not a fan of fiction at all.

Let me just say that there is nothing inherently wrong with being a poet. I don't mind some poetry and I really like some of it. But this teacher... he's the kind of poet whose work often consists of a blank page with the words "Listen... [huuuuuuge blank space] are you there?" and that's the whole poem.

So, in short, he's a really pretentious guy and he teaches us really obscure, pretentious poetry. And since it's a creative writing class, he wants us to write and workshop our own really pretentious poetry. We're not allowed to bring in anything else because the teacher "doesn't like genre fiction." That's what he'll say, even if you explain to him that it definitely isn't genre fiction.

I hate this pretention. I can't stand these full-of-hot-air poets who ramble on for pages and pages (or just one stupidly empty page) about completely esoteric, random nothingness. You know why I can't stand this?

Because they are writing for other writers, not for readers.

I can't think of a single person I know who reads this kind of poetry for fun. Hell, most people don't read the kinds of short stories and novels I've read in college for fun, either. Is this because most readers are stupid and can't appreciate a really deep, meaningful piece of writing? I don't think so.

I think it's because readers want to have a good time while they're reading. They want to be swept along on a ride, they want to feel exhilarated. They don't want to have to slog through lines of meaningless B.S. and complicated metaphors. They don't want to read reams and reams of what is, really, just a writer showing off their skillz.

I write YA. I write for readers who want characters with heart, whose stories they can get swept up in. And who says writing can't be both accessable and deeply meaningful? Just because it's easy - and yes, FUN - to read doesn't mean it's useless mainstream crap. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins is a perfect example of this. (Fangirl review post coming soon!) And there are poets succeeding with writing like this, just check out my favourite poet ever, Shane Koyczan.

If the people you're writing for are just other writers, and all they're going to do is pick apart the mechanics of your piece and try to figure out what it means... really, what's the point?

I write for readers. Pure and simple.

And that's why I'm sitting here in the library between a girl eating a muffin and a guy who smells like chicken, instead of in class.


  1. the end of this post made me smile...too funny. but I get what you mean. I took one Creative Writing Class in college and I just really didn't like the teacher...they can certainly make or break a class.

    And I agree about writing for readers and not writers, and of course, writing for yourself. I don't mind poetry but it does depend and I hate people that think they are amazing and their way is the ONLY way. Not cool.

    -Lauren from Let's Get Beyond Tolerance

  2. I had that problem with undergrad creative writing courses as well. My professor was a great guy, but we would spend so much time on poetry, which I have no interest or skill in writing, and maybe two weeks on fiction. It was very frustrating, and is probably a common issue in higher education. If you think your time is better spent elsewhere, more power to you!

  3. People like that remind me of villagers in "the Emperor's New Clothes." You point and stare and are like, "really? this is poetry? a blank page? these are the best 'clothes' ever???" and everyone tells you it's genius, and you have to be an idiot not to get it, especially the guy who is NAKED.

  4. Martinelli: Totally! That's how I feel about Lady GaGa, too. When you say you don't like her everyone's like "Oh, you just don't 'get' her."

  5. Ha! Love what you said about Lady GaGa. AGREE.

    I hate when teachers do that. I think writing for writers totally lacks any once of possible inspiration. It's all about getting it right. But if you write for readers, you want to entertain. And that's what writing for us is in the first place. We entertain ourselves :)