Why Your Creative Writer Needs Composition Structure


"Your writing rules are too restricting. You're holding my creative daughter back." This is a common email I receive at least twice every school year, usually from the parent of a middle school girl who had already written two novels and writes all the time. In fact, she can't stop writing, and THAT's exactly her problem. Many creative writers have no brakes on their thoughts. I see it constantly in expository essays where the examples and evidence overtake the argument and actually weaken it. These students lack the ability to filter their thoughts and present a cohesive argument. When told they need to edit out details that don't further their argument, they tend to seize up, not understanding the difference between details that distract and those that support the main pillars of thought.

I'm a Southern gal, and as such, I use a lot of object lessons. By way of comparison, imagine giving a ten-year-old boy a football and setting him lose on the football field and asking the coach not to restrict him with drilling his fundamentals or following rules. "Those rules and restrictions are fine for everyone else, but not for my future superstar." That's the equivalent of what a parent says to writing "coaches" when asking them to loosen the structure and encourage free-range creative writing, lowering academic expectations to fit the needs and wishes of the very children they're supposed to be equipping for success.

I'm not against creative writing, please understand. I'm just also for building strong composition skills that will eventually allow these young writers to thrive. Imagine how far athletes with both raw talent and a strong skill set can go in their careers, and you'll see my point. Writers who discipline themselves to organize and develop their thoughts cohesively and then follow style strategies to enhance fluency will become far stronger creative writers in the end.

Students who go to college absolutely must write expositions, and that requires structure. Consider those who never had anyone train them to write from a clear thesis and maintain a coherent argument through multiple paragraphs. How will those students get past their general education requirements? Imagine the frustration of getting all the way to college and not understanding how to write a basic five-paragraph informative essay.

Often our students struggle because a task is difficult, but in overcoming that difficulty, they earn achievement that boosts their confidence to try other tasks that may have at one time seemed impossible. Instead of lowering the bar for them and avoiding those assignments they find distasteful, let's instead provide them the support they need to get over that academic bar and understand that they really can do it themselves. So go sign them up for that academic writing course, and one day, a very grateful college student may just call you and thank you for making them work their way Over the Bar.


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