1. keeklies
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    keeklies Member

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    Creative Writing Instructors

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by keeklies, Apr 7, 2009.

    I'm new here and I just need to vent. I wanted to know if anyone else has ever gone through this before. I am studying creative writing in university and so far so good. I made all A's in writing and even had some work published (and no, NOT in the school newsletter - in REAL publications :p).

    However, this semester I have had such a WITCH for an instructor. Every time she grades my work, the mark is lousy and the feedback is beyond harsh. So then I started thinking, maybe she's right. Maybe all my other instructors were just being polite and she's the only one who's being honest with me. Maybe I DO suck (not that she says it in those words, but pretty much that's what her point is). Maybe I am just deluded.

    My self-esteem has taken such a bashing this semester and I'm at the point where I am contemplating quitting writing. I don't know what to do to haul up my confidence again. Every time I start to write something, I can hear her nasty comments in the back of my mind and I'm paralyzed. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before.

    Has anyone gone through something like this? Maybe even having to deal with an overly harsh critter would be a similar experience. How did you overcome it and keep going?
     
  2. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    Actually this reminds me of the creative writing teacher I had in high school who was as mean as the one you're talking about. She even told me that my poem had to mean a certain thing it didn't mean at all and then argued with me, the writer of the darn thing, about it. ><

    Honestly, don't let her get to you. All she can affect is your grades. It may be she has a personal vendetta against you. Just view her as a harsh critique and then correct only the things you personally feel need to be corrected.

    Don't let anyone ever make you quit writing. We don't write to please the people around us--we write to soothe our souls and to quiet that voice that won't let us be happy except when we're writing.
     
  3. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Maybe directly ask her why she is so harsh. Ask her if she thinks you suck or if you have potential. You might be surprised by her answers.

    Ask yourself how did you get published in real publications if you suck.
     
  4. Unsavory
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    Unsavory Active Member

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    It's possible that the teacher senses your obvious talent and expects more of you. It might be her way of inspiring you to get better. There are lots of people here who can be harsh, but what they say, they mean in the best, most constructive way.

    OR, she may really just be that bad. There are definitely teachers like that out there. I've had them myself and it affected me the same way it's affecting you. It's very hard, but I'm sure you know deep down that you can't let any one person hurt you in such a way. You need to keep writing if that's what you love to do. If it's a choice between dropping the class or no longer writing, drop the class. School is supposed to nurture, not stifle.
     
  5. RIPPA MATE
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    RIPPA MATE Contributing Member

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    or the teacher is jealous and wishes her writing could be as awesum as yours :p
     
  6. OneMoreNameless
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    OneMoreNameless Contributing Member

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    The next time she gives you harsh feedback, consider each point she makes against you separately and as if somebody else had sugarcoated it. (If you find this too difficult, show the work and comments to others and take their response.) If she's ultimately making valid criticisms, try to fix them, but I would be having a strong word with her (or her boss!) about her tone and bias. If you don't think her points are valid, or are just a matter of opinion, do the above but also spend some time carefully writing a counter-critique to her arguments. Put on some dramatic music and imagine yourself in a Phoenix Wright style court case, if that helps. (Or maybe that's just me. :p) She'll probably still be a bitch if you argue with her, but you can write easier knowing that you're right.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'd personally be most upset with the poor grades, if they are unfair. But are the red marks specific enough to learn from? If so, get as much from them as you can. As harsh as they are, they may be gold.

    On the other hand, they may be iron pyrites. An opinion from a teacher should be worth something, but it isn't necessarily so. Is there another creative writing teacer whose opinion you trust? If so, take a graded paper to the other teacher and ask which editing notes he or she agrees with, and disagrees with. The purpose is not to cause trouble for the harsh teacher, but to see if there is really a lot of value in those editing strokes.
     
  8. vanhunks
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    vanhunks Member

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    I sense this instructor feels threatened by your abilities.:rolleyes:

    vanhunks
     
  9. Castlesofsand
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    Castlesofsand Banned

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    hello

    a critique is just as it is meant to be, another's view on what they think it should be like. One person's thoughts do not make it worthy of change. Two should give you cause to review or take another look. Three if they all agree about something, well its time to make a change.

    so harsh critiques, you have to treat the same. one person's views. Sadly this is the person who is marking your pieces up with pen, you can either stick to your guns, or try to see what has been said, sometimes we hold on to a story too tightly to see what is what and the where's get lost in pride.

    let someone else have a read, there are plenty on the site, write another piece just to see, have a few other views, see what side of the line you are on.

    good luck on your writings, remember a review is just another's opinion, nothing more.
     
  10. thegearheart
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    thegearheart Member

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    Oh, man. I had a teacher like that in university, once. I remember the first day he came into the class- he was one of those cool, iconoclastic types who really seemed like he wanted to challenge the status quo. I thought, "This guy will appreciate my writing."

    He hated me. He hated my opinions. He hated my stories. He told me I was a troublemaker, too, which I didn't appreciate. All good writers are troublemakers. I can't wait to sell my book so I can send him a copy.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There's anoter side to it, too. It doesn;t matter whether the critic loves or despises you, or vice versa. The only ting that matters is what you, the writer, can extract from the critique. Even if the critic is only interested in causing you pain, he or she may come up with legitimate issues that you can use to make your writing better.

    If a literary ape is flinging poo at you, check it for embedded diamonds anyway.
     
  12. g1ng3rsnap9ed
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    g1ng3rsnap9ed Contributing Member

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    You should never quit writing just because of what one person's opinion of you is. Do you think that Stephen King or Dean Koontz have never gotten negative feedback? Just use all critiques, be it positive or negative to improve upon yourself. It would be a very good idea to ask your teach up-front what she finds wrong with your writing...unless your really, really shy like me. :D
     
  13. Piestein
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    Piestein Senior Member

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    What doesn't kill you makes you stronger (sorry, I usually hate quoting famous quotes that everybody uses, but I hope this helps you understand what I mean). Don't let that kill you and you'll notice the effects.

    There are two options -- your teacher sees too much potential in you and envies you for it, or she sees too much potential and wants you to work hard to become great.

    To understand which one she really is, go and ask her straight out. If she is only trying to help you with extreme critique (she might have a valid reason behind it), then she'll say it. Trust me, she will if she's that type of person, they rarely realize they are harsh until somebody tells them. And when you know it's only for your own good, you'll know you don't suck. Besides, she'll have in mind not to be as harsh.

    If it's the other option... well there are evil teachers. When they see potential, they want to crush it. In this case, search for another opinion, a professional one (that part is a must). If the 2nd opinion says this is all bull****, then just ignore her, grades ain't everything.

    If the 2nd opinion says that some remarks are valid (but still pure evil), think of it this way -- she's a professional. And trust me, a professional can always (no exceptions if he/she is a smart person) make you feel stupid. Trust me, this type of people are fully capable. However, you should realize the flaw is in her attitude, not your writing, because mistakes could always be found. That being said though, regard her critiques extremely patient and with much attention. Even if she hates you, she might be helping you. In your future writing you will be harshly critiqued by some (there will be always some hater-reviewer to say your plot is taken by a book, or that your characters are stupid, or something like that). If you can learn to deal with that at an early stage, you'll be one giant leap infront of everyone else.

    Seriously though, whatever you choose doing, do not let her stop your writing. Don't.
     
  14. Phantasmal Reality
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    Phantasmal Reality Contributing Member

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    Get a second informed opinion and consider approaching your teacher in a polite way about it. If she's really just an evil b----, it'll become clear. Do what you have to do from there.
     
  15. keeklies
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    keeklies Member

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    Thanks everybody. Your words have been very helpful and uplifting.

    I wish I could say that my instructor was just jealous, but she is a published novelist with a lot of literary awards and a huge ego to go with it, so I don't think she's threatened by little ole me in any way.

    I also wish I could say her feedback was helpful, but for the most part it's vague and dismissive. I will cut and paste her feedback from 2 of my online submissions to give you an idea:

    (for a short story)
    Campy, incredulous. Is this a joke? Grade: 70.00 / 100.00

    (For a screenplay)
    Your formatting is off. Your sluglines are laughable. The mom is so idealized that your reader is surprised she’s a real person. And the dialogue.. it's just all wrong. Do over. Grade: 60.00 / 100.00

    Maybe to an outsider those seem like harmless comments, but I worked my ass off and she didn't even give me feedback I could use. Saying it's a joke and I should "do over" is not specific enough for me to work with.

    But what's worse is the unfair grade.

    I do feel like talking to her boss, since I don't feel like she is doing her job by criticizing me and then not giving me any direction.
     
  16. Piestein
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    Piestein Senior Member

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    Hm... well that's barely constructive, so she can't be of help.

    Perhaps she hates her job, but has to do it for the money. Perhaps your style isn't her thing and she simply can't be ****d to actually write something constructive, because that takes time and effort. Why spend her time helping students when she won't get more pay (these people exist, sadly) ?

    Again, seek a second opinion.
     
  17. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    Wow. She has definitely got a bad attitude about your writing. I'd talk to her boss. Actually, first, I'd personally do this: talk to her and ask her to give more constructive feedback and if she refuses, then take proof (her comments on those works) to her boss.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    all teachers are not created equal... having a teaching certificate does not make one infallible... or even competent, in many sad cases...

    was the work you had published paid for, or freebies?... have you had anyone who's knowledgeable about good writing take a look at the paper she did a hatchet job on, to tell you if her comments were justified, harsh or not?... if you want, i'll be happy to take a look at the paper with her comments on it and let you know if she was just being mean, or simply not sugar-coating the awful truth... as folks here who know me know, i'm a take-no-prisoners editor and tell it as i see it critic, so since i don't know you, there will be no personal baggage and a second opinion can help...

    regardless, she's the teacher and you're the student... but if after having it checked out you still think she was being unfair, then ask her politely why she was so harsh and see what happens... teachers usually like students who ask questions, as long as it's not an attack...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  19. Castlesofsand
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    Castlesofsand Banned

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    the thing is about editing, is that a writer never should call themselves editors, we are writers, an editor looks at a piece with no thoughts to how to change it, how to make it better, they look at whats missing, what doesn't work.

    when i offer a critique i offer it as a writer, not as an editor for i believe i lack the training, and the separation from the 'story' side of the piece to see it how it should be.

    i think that goes for your teacher, she might be a teacher, but that doesn't make her an editor. one review doesn't make a bad story it just makes you want another opinion

    best to your writings
     
  20. keeklies
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    keeklies Member

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    I was paid for the published fiction, indeed. I would happy to show you some of the fiction that she harshly critiqued. She didn't actually write comments in the actual story (she never does); she just writes one or two lines about how much she hates it. Where would you like me to post my story? Or shall I email it to you?

    I agree with the other comments about her resenting her job. I am beginning to think she considers herself above teaching and probably expected more from her career by this age. Only she knows if that's true, though. :)
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    My last college had a formal policy for contesting an alleged unfair grade. What you are describing certainly would be valid grounds for such a challenge.

    In the one case I know of in which students were grumbling about an instructor's grading, that instructor was dropped after that class. I assume that one or more students formally challenged the grade.
     
  22. Ghadius
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    Ghadius New Member

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    I find the entire idea of an instructor/teacher in creative writing absurd. The whole point in Creative Writing is that it is creative. It doesn't need rules or criticism. It comes straight from the heart and the mind and appeals to different people. What if your Instructor didn't like your style, whilst the general audience did? It leads to a biased report. Creative Writing is an ability to exercise ones mind, ones opinions and ones feelings, and put them all onto paper. That's the beauty of Writing.
    No mattter what this Instructor says, don't give up on Writing, don't give up on your dreams. Whenever you feel down, just think of how much you enjoy writing, and how much that Writing is going to help you in time.
    It's your future, not your Instructors.
     
  23. keeklies
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    keeklies Member

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    Cogito - I will definitely challenge the final grade then (I have not gotten it, but I don't imagine it will be all that great).

    Ghadius - I could not agree more! I have to keep reminding myself to write for the intrinsic reasons and just fuhgettabout what the bitchy instructors think.
     
  24. Aeroflot
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    Aeroflot Senior Member

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    I took several creative writing classes and I'm going to continue on. My teachers have been pretty easy. I got A's 'cause I turned in the work on time and revised them for my portfolio. They barely ever touched the story unless there was something seriously wrong. You're very lucky for having such an honest teacher. I'd die for one like that.

    Don't think of these classes being like usual classes. Most classes come and go and all you want is a grade and then you forget most of the info. These writing classes you actually have to LEARN the material and apply it. Sounds hard, but that's the truth. You can't put in the same effort into writing that you put into other classes and expect to write well. If you can't impress your teacher and classmates, then good luck trying to impress anyone else. Writing classes are all about the finished product, more so than in other classes, I think. Sounds funny, but I believe teachers of other classes aren't as unforgiving, because your grade comes from all around. Writing classes: either you write a good story or you don't. Then again, classes sometimes constrict your time and you're not able to write so well. But you should still be able to write something passable.

    edit: I do have strong feelings for not taking creative writing classes, though. My friend who I've taken all my writing classes with told me the other day that I've given him the best writing critique and advice ever. The classes have been such wastes of time. Nobody really critiques your paper with all their effort, nor do they care about your writing. At least undergrad seems that way.
     
  25. keeklies
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    keeklies Member

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    I don't mind that she is honest. In fact that's the reason I am taking classes; so that I can receive professional feedback and improve. What I do have a problem with is that her feedback is disrespectful and vague. It doesn't help me at all. And it makes me think that maybe I suck so badly she can't even be bothered to give me something to work with. Also, my classmates always praise my writing and tell me they look forward to reading what I've written each week, so it's always shocking that she hates it so much. I'm starting to think it's because she's a literary writer and she just hates genre in general; one of her rules was NO fantasy, sci-fi, vampire or romance stories allowed. I don't write in one of those genres, I write suspense or mainstream. She likes when I write mainstream. She has a hissy-fit when I write suspense.

    I don't think I have learned THAT much in writing classes. Most of what I have learned in writing has come from reading piles and piles of writing books on my own and then applying the knowledge in my own writing. Also from the millions of hours of practice. I'm going into third year next September, where I can specialize in novel writing. So I'm hopeful I'll have a more positive experience.
     

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