Rescue your stories through writing
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Author Flannery O’Connor once observed, “I write to discover what I know.” Many writers since O’Connor have echoed this belief.
Joyce Carol Oates has written, “All artists know either consciously or instinctively that the secret intention of their life’s work is to rescue from the plunge of time something of beauty, permanence, significance in another’s eyes.”
In December 2002, I was on a train in Minnesota, heading home for the holidays. It was snowing outside, and I was staring at the chunks of ice that had broken free from the banks of the Mississippi, trying to ignore the din of the passengers in front of me.
Then I felt someone beside me. A young man was standing in the aisle next to my seat. While passengers mingled about the rail car, he set up his camcorder on a tripod and began filming the snow whirling about the exterior of the passing train. I wondered what it was that he saw in the snow, why he was recording the simple act of its falling. I wanted to know his story.
In that moment, I understood why story is so central in our lives. As Oates has said, “We look to stories, our own and others’, as we look into mirrors: that which is locked inside of us can be released by the magic of another’s art, or maybe our own.”
Stories are all around us, yet how often do we take the time to “rescue” them from the “plunge of time”? We might read others’ stories, but what about our own?
In January, Colorado Mountain College is offering several creative writing courses. In the past few weeks, as I have talked with my current students about these courses, many have said, “Oh, but I’m not a very good writer.”
My response: practicing the art of storytelling not only engages one’s sensibilities as a writer but also improves one’s ability to read and think critically. Creative writing courses are not just for writers already skilled in the craft.
In fact, creative writing courses formally began in a junior high school in the 1920s, when progressive educator William Hughes Means argued that rather than teaching subjects, schools should be teaching students. In an effort to engage young people, as an experiment, Means replaced the traditional English class with a creative writing one. The experiment was a great success.
Those who write creatively are engaged in the art of self-expression. In a creative writing class, we write for the sake of personal development.
As Annie Dillard asserts, “At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it.”
As you prepare for the coming of a new year, I encourage you to look for the grace that writing can bring to your life. And as another incentive to make the leap, for the semester that starts in January the college is offering a $25 discount on lower-division credit classes to in-district residents who have never taken a credit class from us.
Pick up a pen. Tell your story. Discover what you know.
Erin Beaver is an assistant professor of English at Colorado Mountain College.
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