My 3rd calendar year of courses at Uvic is now complete. This year I successfully transitioned from a Fine Arts Diploma student to a Creative Writing Undergraduate student (2nd Degree program). In total I’ve engaged in seven semester equivalent classes, 4 of which were in Writing, and I’ve learned that:
- I’m energized by creative writing
- despite my enthusiasm, creative writing is harder than it looks
- 2 classes every semester, on-top of everything else, is ambitious
- I quickly grasp concepts – but always require more practice
- (Critique) Workshops are essential to improve as a writer
In an ode to irony, while my interest in writing has skyrocketed, my posts on exploring-art.com have plummeted. Only six posts in 2013, but I’ve learned that people like:
- Pictures (select, not too many)
- Cocktails (or maybe that’s just me)
- Concise observations on writing (and life)
2014 is going to be great! I’m registered in two classes next semester, I’m committing to at least one exploring-art.com post a month (including either a picture, cocktail, or concise observation), and I’m going to play more squash this year (this shouldn’t be hard I’m pretty sure I didn’t play any squash last year).
Happy new year’s – here’s to the year ahead, and turning over new leaves. Cheers!
On the footsteps of my post regarding “show don’t tell” I’m now thinking about another truism for the novice writer. It’s short, sweet and therefore easy to remember, expressed here via the Whims iPhone app.
Your poem should sound like natural, yet notable, speech. If it’s a clunky string of adjectives you’ve still got revising to do. As with all good advice, it’s easier to give than to follow, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the effort and the WRIT 100 journey.
Thus far the aspect of WRIT 100 that I’ve found most challenging is unpacking the writers’ cliche – “show don’t tell”. The expression inadequately summarizes a set of common issues that create bland writing. Below I break out 4 axioms that I’m actively practicing in an attempt to conquer my first year writing course.
Use Details to Allude to Depth
I love abstractions. My innate interest is in what people think and feel, not necessarily the details of what they look like, say or do. My typical inclination is to go right there. “Jonathan wrestled with the decision before him”. Look at me using an active verb to delve into the depths of Jonathan’s psyche… brilliant! Sadly it’s not so easy.
In order to engage your audience you need to paint a picture with your words, which alludes to what’s happening behind the scene, enabling them to imagine the depth for themselves. This depth is the home of the greater truth, the resonance, the unspoken “meaning”. This is generally what’s meant by “show don’t tell”. Yet the expression is deceptive because you don’t indiscriminately show everything. An attempt to paint all the possible details will befuddle. You must be frugal, discerning and fresh with your words.
Write exactly what you mean with the fewest possible words. Be specific, as opposed to generic, and concrete, as opposed to abstract. Yet be sparing with the quantity of words.
There is a hierarchy of power within words descending from verbs, nouns, adjectives to adverbs. Use verbs and nouns, but unless necessary limit yourself to one concrete specific adjective per noun. Attempt to eliminate adverbs altogether by being exact in your verb choice (except in drama). Applying this guidance will help you contain your word count. It will also encourage you to be discerning in your word choice.
Choose exactly the right word… every time. Does it mean exactly what you mean? Does it intentionally riff on something hidden in the depths? Does it possess the right sound? If not is there a better word? If not is this sentence necessary? What are you trying to allude to? What new sentence can help you get there?
Avoid common expressions. They are too easy to interpret and therefore fail to engage the audience’s imagination. Where appropriate attempt to describe ordinary things in fresh ways. For example if the sparks are symbolic in your work, don’t just write “sparks”, bring imaginative words to bear to paint the picture. Make your audience think about them in ways they never thought they would, employ vivid details that waltz.
As the third class (ART 150) in my Fine Arts Diploma Program sunsets I can’t help but feel; that though the subject mater is less industrial than my Bachelor of Commerce degree the overall educational paradigm is the same. It feels a bit disheartening as well as misplaced… an area of study with an identity crisis perhaps?
This feeling got me thinking of a TED talk I was exposed to, in the first course of my program FA 101 (which was fantastic), by Sir Ken Robinson… some googling and hours later, I present the Sir Ken Robinson Video Marathon! The best internet videos I could find from the knight calling for an educational revolution. Fight on Ken, your revolution is not complete!
1 Hour Talk on the Element
No apparent way to embed this one but it’s worth the jump and the time, a lengthy talk covering a wide range of topics associated with the Element one of Sir Ken Robinson’s books.
So I have to concede Art 150 one thing… It does expose the students to a wide array of artists and artist’s practices.
For instance I didn’t know anything about Jenny Holzer and her work with truisms when I offered up the creative challenge of create a quote. And the two things are clearly similar… so here’s another one:
“People in places of power are commonly contemptuous.”
I have been remiss with my proposed schedule here at Exploring-Art.com. I was desperately trying to meet my own grade expectations with ART 150, which in hindsight may have been a futile endeavour – Alas! The good news is that the last assignment is due December 1st, so I’ll be able to get back into my regular cadence soon.
A creative challenge that came about within a FA101 class discussion was to fashion yourself a creative handle, a pen name. I have had handles for online things before, but I had never attempted to craft one with meaning.
So I let that percolate away in my super-concious, and out the other end of the process came: “Creatio Collegiate”, here is why.
“Creatio” has Ancient Greek and/or Latin roots, and is the root for the english word creation. Creatio has connotations of the natural world (rather than man made items) and may also invoke spiritual or god like themes.
“Collegiate” of course evokes collaborative, inclusive, friendly and betterment themes.
So taken together the pen name “Creatio Collegiate” is about collaborative, friendly creation with the aim of self improvement; specifically becoming more well rounded, and appreciative of the many beauties our existence has to offer. I used the Creatio Collegiate name as my Vimeo handle to support the sharing of my FA101 creative acts during class. Exploring-Art.com is a continuation of this theme, and an attempt to sustain it beyond my current continuing education activities.
What is your creative pen name? Why? Don’t have one? Well now you have your first Creative Challenge! Good luck!
The Artful Wall is our, Elaine Wu and my, response to the second assignment for FA350. The assignment was to go out into the UVic campus and find a location to build a wall. Design the wall and create a presentation to pitch your idea to the UVic board of directors. Attached is a movie of the presentation Elaine and I created for class… I have voiced over the presentation with a close facsimile of what Elaine and I delivered to the rest of the FA350 class.
Given the trajectory of this blog, I knew that I was going to have to tackle this philosophical question sometime soon. Interestingly the question also played a starring role in the first two weeks of Visual Arts 150: Contemporary Practice: Theory & Criticism… what I’ve learned from class is that there is no shared answer, only many individual answers, so here’s mine.
In order for something to be art it must:
Be a product of a creative process. This is a subjective principle, and it also introduces a duality, a single object may or may not be considered art depending on the process by which it was made. Additionally a creative process is a many varied thing, some are long, some are short, but they all at some point envelop an idea in the broadest sense of the word (not necessarily a big idea).
Be evocative… maybe it makes you wonder what it is, maybe it makes you contemplate the universe, maybe it makes you uncomfortable, happy or sad, maybe it reminds you of summers past, but it must be able to stir something inside an audience even if it is only simple ambivalence. This is also a subjective principle, what is or isn’t evocative in this broad sense is debatable, and personal.
Have a self-aware audience. If the product was to be viewed, tasted, heard, experienced, the audience must be aware that it is participating in this dynamic. A theatre production that is snuck into everyday life is no longer art, because although lines are scripted and the story is plotted, the audience is unaware that this isn’t just people interacting through the course of daily life.
Be man made. By this I mean not nature, not happenstance, I don’t want to use the word intentional because some artists claim not to know where a piece is going… they just do… Although nature is beautiful, and we can stumble upon beautiful serendipitous moments throughout life, they are not art.
First let me say I loved FA350: An Introduction to Architecture: Theory & Practice at UVic. I took it this July (2011) in condensed format… Monday to Friday, 4:30-6:30, for 3 weeks + 2 days… it was awesome!
The first assignment? On a 8.5 * 11 piece of paper design a graphic to represent and introduce yourself to your classmates, and explain why you are interested in Architecture.
Being process minded and cognisant that personality is at least partially an emergent characteristic I designed this.