I was watching an episode of the hilarious workplace cop comedy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the other day. A character was trying to come up with a list for that dreaded review question, What are some of your weaknesses? Naturally, she could only come up with “weaknesses” that are actually strengths, like “being too conscientious.”
But I just thought of one for me.
One of my current classes is a screenwriting course. There is little in the way of a syllabus, so I’m running the class as mostly a lab. This feels appropriate anyway, since what one needs for writing is simply time set aside for writing. This format gives us the chance to incorporate other exercises, screenings and interactions in a productively ad hoc basis. Naturally, I also give each student a one-on-one during most sessions, giving me an opportunity to critique their writing.
Thinking about the class today, I suddenly recalled that when I ask students why they chose a particular path in trying to flesh out a story, they often tell me it was in response to my notes from last week. At that point I am usually in the midst of what turns out to be a line of conflicting advice. I tend to find this a bit amusing when it happens—whether because I am a bit of a sadist or because I am cultivating an absent-minded-professor thing, I’m not sure.
What occurred to me today was to wonder whether or not my apparently giving conflicting advice from week to week is a bad thing or a good thing. On the one hand, I can see how it might exasperate the students who, to some extent, are attempting assignments just because I created them, not because they make some larger “sense” to them. On the other hand, sending them first in one direction and then in another might actually be giving them an appropriate kind of writer’s “workout.” It might lead to stories that are more complete, more grounded. Maybe?
That’s the nice thing about doing your own review, I guess.