Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Links to Inspire New Writers

By Karin Gillespie

I’m teaching three sections of college composition this semester, and frankly I find the subject matter a little dull (ethos, logos, pathos, rhetoric, thesis statement, blah, blah, blah…..)
To jazz things up, I throw in a lot of stuff about creativity and storytelling (We’re doing a narrative essay. My favorite!)

While planning lessons I run across a lot of writerly links.  Some will likely be familiar to you; others may be completely new.

Most writers have heard of Anne Lamott but my students usually haven’t, so it’s always fun to introduce them to her concept of "shitty first drafts". ( Plus the room always titters when I say the word  “shitty.”)
Some students think they aren’t particularly creative, and I tell them, “Oh hell yes, you are!”  I show them this video on developing creativity and ask them to read an essay by Brenda Ureland.   And to drive home the point, I show them the Elizabeth Gilbert TED talk on what creative genius really is. (I know. Everyone’s heard of the Gilbert talk, but not my kids. They are tabula rasa.  Besides it always gives me a chill when I watch it.)

And while we’re doing TED Talks, here’s one from a Pixar screenwriter about the elements of a great story. It’s worth it just for the deliciously dirty joke he tells at the beginning. (I tell my students to plug their ears if they are easily offended. They never do.) 

Someone in class usually cries whenever I show The Power of Words. (If you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth the two minute investment.)

I also believe that part of my job is not just to teach or inspire but also to entertain. Occasionally I’ll steal a joke or two from this collection for grammar nerds. Here's a sample: Past, Present and Future walk into a bar. It was tense.

That's it. Class dismissed.


  1. Oh, Karin, I love these!! I haven't seen them all yet (but I will now ;), and that Elizabeth Gilbert TED talk will always be one of my faves. Thanks for sharing this...esp. the grammar nerds joke collection! Love. It.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Karin. Can't wait to work my way through these and be inspired and productive.

  3. "Shitty first drafts" is one of my favorite phrases of all time. Love!

    1. Mine, too, Barbara! I'm very dedicated to that tenet!

  4. Perfect timing, Karin! I'm supposed to talk to new writers in November, and have been stressing about it. This is terrific. Thanks so much!

  5. I always love your posts, Karin! good luck with grading:)