First day of class. The professor distributes the syllabus. She drones on, word by freaking word. You skim ahead, get to the juicy bits: how is the grade calculated? How much homework? What will we read?
As a professor, writing the syllabus is a challenge. I have ideas. I want to re-invent the class, keeping the activities that worked, developing new activities. As a student, I can’t wait to read a new syllabus. All that promise. All that new stuff to discover.
But when it comes to life outside of academia I’ve worked sans syllabus.
This summer, that’s about to change. One of my colleagues, Joyce Hayden, is a talented artist, writer, and teacher. Last year she shared with me that she writes a syllabus for her creative work over the summer. The idea intrigued me, but I didn’t act on it. By the end of the week, though, I plan to have a syllabus written, printed, and on my desk. A plan for creative work is a good thing, right?
Do you want to join me? Whether you’re planning to hand stitch a quilt, write a novel, or learn French, give a creative-project syllabus a try.
Never wrote a syllabus? You can take a look at the one I wrote for this spring’s creative writing class.
See? No sweat. The components are simple:
Meeting Time and Place: I’ll block out sections of my day for creative work. When is best for you to work?
Required Texts: I’m going to have a couple of creative projects going. One is a writing project that will require me to brush up on my sentence diagramming. The other is a watercolor project, and I will need some references. I like to start my creative work (or play!) sessions with a reading to help me get grounded. What could you read as you enter into creative mode?
Other Requirements: What else do you need to gather for your creative project? I may need some medical references for the writing project. I have plenty of supplies for the painting project.
Courteousness and Safe Haven: Since you’re the only one working on this project, this can be an agreement for self care. For instance, my writing needs to feel protected. All too often, I ask for critique on my writing before it is ready. During this project, I will not do that.
Cell Phones: What is your policy for interacting with others, including the internet, during your creative time?
Attendance: How will you hold yourself accountable for showing up to the page, the needle, the loom? Are there any acceptable reasons for missing a scheduled session? Define them now, before you start.
Resources: Where can you turn for help? Make a list so you can feel secure when you need help.
Endeavors: This year, I started to use the word endeavor in my class rather than project or assignment. I like the connotations of it. So what are the parts that will make up the whole for you? How will you move forward on your creative endeavors? Define that here.
Schedule: I plan to write a schedule like this one I used with students this spring. I’ll list my readings and what I’ll need to do to make progress on my creative endeavors. I’ll schedule an outing or two in there, just to make sure I fill the creative well.
Syllabuses can have other components, of course, and I’d love to hear what you’re including in yours.
Are you in? Creative class in session? Tell me about your creative project in the comments!
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