The canon of creative writing at Western University is limited in contrast to the number of students with the ability to contribute to it. Campus publications attempt to diversify their bodies of student work, but a key issue still prevents them from accurately representing the student body: Students outside of the arts and humanities faculty are not encouraged to engage with writing on a creative level.
Essentially, when we read student-produced creative work — whether it be through the workshop component of a creative writing course or in student publications — a plethora of voices are absent. We are reading the diverse stories of those from the arts community but rarely the stories of others.
Jonathan Hermina, an honors English literature and creative writing student, adamantly believes that though the majority of creative work on campus comes from arts students, creative writing does not belong to any one department — it belongs to people with stories to tell.
“Creative writing is all about expression, but when only English students, saturated in a tradition of literature they can't escape, are the only ones taking advantage of telling their stories, we get a biased idea of what writing is and what writing can do for us,” Hermina says.
The issue is multifaceted. On one hand, writing courses provide essential editing, style and grammar skills that, frankly, aren’t being taught in other courses. Students from varying faculties outside of the arts would benefit extensively from even a fraction of this kind of training, as most students haven’t thought about the nuances of their writing since high school or even earlier. On the other hand, the arts experience does not encompass all experience, and those in the creative writing program would benefit from integrating creatively with those from other faculties.
“I feel it’s crucial, for the overall development of students, to have scope for creativity in all courses and faculties,” says Akshi Chadha, a first-year student. “As a student of both philosophy and psychology — arts and social science — I feel the science faculty doesn’t leave room for creative pursuits amidst all learning of the past, present and future of science.”
Writers are encouraged to write three-dimensional characters, but society demands that the real world be seen in archetypes. The image of “the writer” does not fit within a perfect box — the writers of Western are your philosophy majors scribbling poetry between the margins of their notes, the math TAs struggling to finish a novel in their spare time, your residence friends, your one-night stands, your professors, your lovers or your classmates in every subject.
Different programs in university should not promote binary behaviour — engineers can be poets, sociologists can be short story writers and each and every student has a story to tell.
“Breaking down [faculty] stereotypes will allow us to be always finding new ways to express ourselves,” Hermina says. “More than ever, it is important for us to practice empathy and communication through art.”
— Sydney Brooman, Western’s student writer-in-residence for the 2017-18 academic year. Brooman can be reached at her office hours: Thursdays 10 a.m. to noon in AHB 2G28M.