Advanced Composition Aesthetics and the Writer's Colony
Intro | Page Two | Page Three | Page Four | Page Five | Page Six | Page Seven | Works Cited 
     Revolution and the Intertext
Writing for self can be revolutionary. Academia places invoked audience and the intertextual tradition and the discourse community above personal fulfillment. Certainly, students need to master rhetorical strategies, organizational clarity, and library-based development, but our culture needs more than understandable texts. Civilization depends on vision, transcendence, moral significance, higher purpose, sublimity... a beacon for the best self that elevates humanity out of despair. I assert that writing to and from our own hearts allows imaginative leaps from the untapped collective unconsciousness into what approaches divine revelation. The mysterious bond between soul and paper ­ whether achieved through breathtaking fiction or literary essays ­- moves us closer and faster to the good, true, and beautiful than any other method I've discovered. 
Short story writer Kelly Cherry views writing as crying aloud even when "surrounded by a silence so profound that it is tautological, a preface and an epilogue of pure silence" (16). The modern writer suffers both from the onslaught of empty communiques and the silence of alienation and angst. Cherry sees writing as essentially life-affirming: "You must believe in the possibility of the imagination to transform what is dispiritingly bland to beauty, chaos to order, senselessness to sense, what sickens and appalls to energy and hope..." (94). Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano also reaches out, using language as "prophecy" to "celebrate and share the certainty that the human condition is not a cesspool" (123). 
Good students learn accuracy early; they index-hunt secondary sources and footnote precisely. But factual material can become a crutch. Ken Macrorie reminds us that truthtelling happens on two levels: "We ask for truths to the world out there, which can be verified; and truth to the world inside, the writer's feelings, which no one can verify" (7). And political essayist Carlos Fuentes brings that truth back to the community when he writes, "Like bread and love, language is shared with others .... There is no creation without tradition" (110). 
     Seeking Inspiration
Consider how I composed this paper. The imminent deadline, pressures of multiple jobs, conflicting course assignments, and chronic sleep deprivation left me empty. I'm capable of cranking out adequate text overnight, but, Professor Kann, your risk-taking and experimenting deserved better. The weekend extension allowed me the solitude and reflection essential to inspiration. For the past six weeks, I've skimmed massive stacks of library books and saved relevant passages in a computer database. Although I'd conscientiously developed several versions of a thesis, multiple outlines, and a decent rough draft, the magic never came ­- until the night after our final class session. I came home exhausted and dreamt my paper. 
Somehow multiple sources coalesced overnight: the Delphi experience; Professor Inchausti's Literary Criticism class; Dawn Tanner's description of how she wrote her prize-winning short story; Dr. Marx's story of writing the Shakespeare article which led to his book contract; scholarly articles by Lynn Bloom and Peter Elbow; John Berendt's genre-bending novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil; memories of a wildly experimental, self-directed-learning vacation in sixth grade; the "Universal A's" debate; and also, David, your repeated references to humanity. Through my dream, I envisioned a Writer's Colony transplanted onto the Cal Poly campus, combining periods of intense solitary writing with group readings and collaborative critiques. After I woke energized at 4:00am, I followed my private ritual of swirling around the room to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony while re-playing the dream in my mind. And only then could I begin to really, truly write. 
     Stimulating the Muse
The testimony of professional and artistic writers validates my belief in both writing for self and waiting for inspiration. Sometimes the luxury of time allows us to wait in "self-hypnotizing concentration" for the muse to speak, but students also need to identify personal tools for efficiently sparking those deep resources (Macrorie 7). Advanced students should be encouraged to tap into deep psychological, even mystical, reserves. And to follow anywhere the mind travels when we meditate, dream, draw, and dance. 
To stimulate the muse, the Advanced Aesthetics class could freewrite for ten minutes in response to classical music. Free association exercises and meditation techniques can expand our ability to find inspiration on command. Or for at least one week, students could follow the advice of dream expert Dr. Gayle Delaney: "keep a dream notebook by your bed, record the date before going to sleep, and write whatever is on your mind when you awake" (17). 
Through such alternate methods, we will move into the intersection between communication and art, recording the "surprises of the world faithfully" (Macrorie 33). Louise Wetherbee Phelps beautifully describes the intensity upon connecting to our deepest self: "The transforming power of the generative state is generous, contagious, unselective in what it affects, ideas touching each other off like firecrackers almost simultaneously" (118). 
Author: Elizabeth Howell Brunner