Gatekeeping and other musings

Rant Warning!

I’m a writer. A “creative” writer if you will. Really, though, all writing is creative (Thanks, Jim!)

I believe in the power of story to change minds. To help us learn. To help writers process and apply things they’re learning.

I believe that trying new things is good. I believe that “bad” writing is what we do when we’re trying to write outside our comfort zone. I believe that much “bad” writing can be revised to be better. Maybe even to become “good” writing.

I believe writing, creative writing, is scholarly and a valuable way of teaching and learning. I do NOT believe creative writing courses are fluff, “easy” or empty of content.

And I don’t believe educators should decide whether a student is “allowed’ to produce a creative capstone project. On the basis of what would we decide that? What must a student do or demonstrate in order to deserve to be permitted into the hallowed halls of creative writing?

Probably, if my writing had been looked at that way, I would never have graduated from Slippery Rock University with my MA based on my allegedly “creative” thesis. I’m sure if I read it now, I would cringe at how bad my writing was. But I was learning. Trying new things. And I was lucky enough to have professors who were okay with that.

Now I end up here at It shall be nameless university where arguments are starting (again) about whether creative writing can be a capstone project. Arguments about what makes “good” creative writing. Against what standard should we measure the creative writing of our undergraduates? Like the work they’re writing, they are also works in progress, still learning and growing and finding their way. Their senior projects should demonstrate not just what they know but what they will need to know.

If my thesis committee had expected “good” writing from me in 1996 when I graduated from SRU, I might not have my MA. Fortunately, they were open enough to see what I was learning from this attempt.

I for one don’t want to be the professor who tells a student they’re somehow not “good” enough to try a creative thesis. I have no desire to be a gatekeeper. I want to leave that door wide open.