The blinking continues, taunting you as you stare at the blank screen searching for the perfect opening to your paper. You might have written a few words only to erase them, feel like the clock is moving twice as fast or maybe you decided to try again later. The hardest part of writing a paper is starting it. However, the solution to your imaginative block could be found in taking a creative writing course at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
UW-Eau Claire’s creative writing program is a hidden gem that provides incredible benefits to all majors. Allyson Loomis is just one of the many talented creative writing professors at UW-Eau Claire. Loomis has been teaching at UW-Eau Claire for 15 years, but it was her first creative writing class, taught when she was a graduate student, that developed her love to teach the course.
“I needed to break it down into do-able steps for them, help them to try something difficult and new,” Loomis says. “It was the greatest feeling, watching the students loosen up and write confidently. I’ve been hooked on teaching ever since.”
Bree Meier, a senior broadcast journalism major, initially took a creative writing course to fulfill a requirement but quickly found the benefits for her career.
“Coming up with story ideas was tough for me so looking at life in a unique way made it much more manageable,” Meier says. “I’d take my everyday life and try and ask, ‘Is there a story here?’” While she began asking herself this question for the course, she now will be asking it for a career as a journalist.
“I have a passion for telling a good story,” Meier says. “Creative writing taught me that there are so many stories out there waiting to be told so being able to view things in a new or unique light is extremely important.”
Allyson Loomis believes that there is always a story to be told. “Well, I think that every living human being has a story to tell,” Loomis says. “A person cannot satisfactorily answer the question ‘Who are you?' without telling a story.”
Natalie Hegna is another Blugold that has found value in the creative writing program at UW-Eau Claire. Hegna, a senior accounting major, paired her main area of study with a creative writing minor. While the combination may seem strange, she would have it no other way.
“One of the main reasons that I chose this pairing was to pursue my love for accounting and also my love for writing,” Hegna says. “I wanted my employers to see that I was not only book smart but also creative in other aspects of my life.” This combination will certainly help her stand out in a crowd of applicants and will continue to benefit her as she has learned a valuable lesson from her creative writing courses.
“I think that all of my English courses have helped me to appreciate the written word a lot more than I previously did,” Hegna says.
Hegna is also an example of a Blugold that never let her childhood goals slip away. “The little kid in me always wanted to be a writer, and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t let that dream die just because I fell in love in accounting also,” Hegna says.
Allyson Loomis has the unique opportunity of teaching many courses at UW-Eau Claire, many of which include very few English majors. Loomis sees a lot of benefits that can be provided from creative writing courses, breaking it down as follows:
- Writing Skills: This may seem obvious, but English creative writers graduate with excellent writing skills that will serve them along a huge array of career paths.
- Imaginative Thinking & Problem Solving: Creative writing students must practice making something out of nothing. Not only do they practice coming up with good ideas for stories or poems, but also they must think of great ways to tell their stories and poems. They must invent the structure of the story. They must find the best way to tell it clearly, efficiently and engagingly. This is “problem solving” of the first order.
- Interpersonal Communication: Creative writing students must evaluate each other’s writing and learn to communicate that evaluation kindly and effectively.
- Empathy: In order to create a character—a really human-seeming character with desires and talents and flaws and problems—a student has to practice deep empathy. It is easy enough for anyone to claim that you can’t understand another person’s life if you have not walked in his or her shoes; in creative writing class, we work hard to ACTUALLY WALK in someone else’s shoes. We learn, through our reading, writing and study of protagonists, that there are many different kinds of people in the world, all of whom are trying to live their best lives. Empathy is vital for all kinds of real-life, practical, activity: management, policy making, parenting, and falling in love!
- An Appreciation of Beauty and Meaning in the World: My college students are mostly young, but creative writing majors must become old souls. They must learn through their reading to recognize what is beautiful (an image, an action that seems inevitable, a metaphor, bit of dialogue that turns the heart) and what, in its beauty, feels true. When we write stories or poems, what we aspire to do is to help readers to see meaning or meaningfulness. To do this we must recognize that there is meaning in our own lives: look at your grandmother’s hands; look at the fancy brickwork on the abandoned building; listen to the churning of car tires through rain puddles. What are the meanings and moods?
Creative writing is something that continues to affect the students that take it years down the road. While it seems like it is a lot of work, the work is rewarding. “Creative writing is challenging, but also a lot of fun,“ Loomis says.
Creativity is valued, so why not improve yours?
This story was written by Kyle Naber, a student writer, for CJ 477- Pro Practicum with Dr. Maureen Schriner in conjunction with the Integrated Marketing and Communications (IMC) staff at UW-Eau Claire.