By Josephine Scicluna, Lecturer in Professional and Creative Writing at Deakin University
Recently one of my Masters students, a filmmaker from the Czech Republic, told me his friends back at home were completely baffled that he was in Australia studying creative writing. You were either creative or you were not, they told him. It wasn’t something you could be taught. Although not voiced in such an emphatic way by my undergraduate students, I’ve still encountered many who hold the suspicion that maybe it’s all just fluff.
What I’ve come to understand is that teaching creativity is not about dishing out a set of instructions how to do it, but much more about helping students to identify the kinds of situations or conditions they need for this receptiveness to occur. From there, they can learn to harness this creativity in exciting ways. But first I have to deal with the resistances.
Much of the resistance I’ve come across bears the vestiges of an 18th-century Romantic view of the artist as a genius, “a one of a kind, a great original” as Margaret Atwood describes in her book on writing, Negotiating with the Dead (2003).
You’re either born that way or not. Or, you have to wait for inspiration, divine or otherwise, to hit you from above, below or sideways. In either case, creativity appears as something outside of your control.
Misconceptions about originality are another factor in my students’ resistance and this can create a real confidence block. If they emulate others, they feel that this doesn’t count as creativity or else if they can’t think of something “completely new”, they think they can’t even begin and freeze up altogether.