Sunday, February 18, 2018

OCSA and the Key to Opening Literary Doors to Younger Generations

A Special Report from Jayna Bosse

Orange County School of the Arts (Image Source)
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a decreased interest in writing from young audiences. With excessive word requirements in school assignments and the lack of time in many students’ schedules, kids now don’t write for leisure, but to hit a word count to appeal to their teachers.

As academia has evolved over the years, writing requirements have only increased in intensity and length, which, in turn, causes the immediate repulsed reaction from most students.

After noticing this, I decided to take matters into my own hands and show everybody that writing isn't so bad; writing really can be fun, and if you put in some effort, anybody can do it!

As a student at the Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) in the Creative Writing Conservatory, I am constantly surrounded by people who love the craft just as much as I do. This is what confused me: Why do students outside of OCSA (and other creative writing conservatories) think so negatively about writing? What do OCSA students have that others do not?

To answer these questions, I interviewed two high school students: OCSA creative writing sophomore Emilia Angotti-Jones, and San Clemente High School junior Evan Campbell-Widmer. What I found was that the difference came down to one vital aspect of writing: Motivation.

Part 1. Interview with Emilia Angotti-Jones (OCSA CW Student)

JB: How has OCSA changed your writing style? What have you learned?

EAJ: It helps explore different genres that I wasn't aware of. AKA screenwriting, which was scary at first, but then I found out that I loved it since the teachers supported me so much and helped with something so early in my writing career.

JB: What do you have to say to all the kids out there who see writing as a necessary evil.

EAJ: It’s really not. There's lots of different types. People think of [writing being] just for school rather than creative ideas. [But it's] not just dedicated to analyzing; it can create its own possibilities. Imagination to reality, which makes it real.

JB: What motivated  you to start writing?

EAJ: I recall an old[er] friend of mine who started writing short stories, and I was super intrigued by how much joy she had in a task that I saw as so menial and hadn't really explored. She told me more about how writing is a craft rather than something that can just be used to get a good grade. Before I knew it, I was writing all the time for leisure and eventually made my way to the CW program here at OCSA.

Part 2. Interview with Evan Campbell-Widmer (SCHS Student)

JB: What are your thoughts about writing?

ECW: I see it as a kind of necessary evil. Writing is more tedious and forced now because of school requirements (like essays and rhetorical analysis) rather than something I'd do for fun and use an organic writing process with rather than a structured outline. I feel like I’m not into writing just because of the pressures associated with it and all of the deadlines and constrictions within it due to school.

JB: When was the last time you wrote a creative piece just for enjoyment?

ECW: I’ve never written a creative piece of literature for fun.

JB: Do you see any gaps in our educational system regarding literature and writing?

ECW: Honestly, we cover a lot of literary material in class and learn to analyze it, but never have the opportunity to write about things we’re personally interested in or actually want to write about. As I said, I don’t really enjoy writing but if I was taught in elementary school how to write about what I want and see it as less of a chore, I feel like my attitude would be a lot different.

Part 3. Changing Perceptions of Writing

Something as menial as encouragement to write creatively managed to change the lives of students so intensely and swayed them toward expressing their creativity through literature. Even in my experience I've gone through the same process. Until the 5th grade when my teachers expressed this idea of writing just for me, I absolutely hated it. After I was introduced to this new positive outlook, my entire writing style changed.

Without the motivation to write and the support to do so, the younger generations see no reason to do so. These students feel like writing can only be useful for research papers and literary analysis because teachers only focus on the academic aspect of the art. With this, the proper motivation for students to write creative pieces is absent in many school systems. Yes, it may be mentally taxing when you have to write a 2,000 word essay on the imagery behind Golding's, Lord of the Flies, but there are many other types of writing that exist, and if the proper motivation is supplied, the limits are endless!

If all teachers, guardians, and influences focused more on having these students write about what they take an interest in and in a style they see as fit, our generation would have a much more positive outlook associated with writing as a whole.

Teachers, lessen the bulky essays on classic literature, and trade them in for open ended stories where students can express themselves.

And students, challenge your teachers. Introduce to them the idea of real creative writing. Even if writing doesn't seem like something you would like to do now, if things change in our scholastic environment, you could find a new hobby that may lead you to future success and the education of many.

-Jayna Bosse

Want to read more about young writers? Check out Garrett Calcaterra's essay "The Kids Are Alright" from a 2013 issue of Black Gate magazine.

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