New creative writing class takes an interesting turn

Junior+Siena+Phaup+works+on+a+creative+writing+project+in+class.

Izabella Manning

Junior Siena Phaup works on a creative writing project in class.

by Izabella Manning, Editor

After three years, Linganore is finally offering a Creative Writing course again. Unlike other classes in which students just write book continuations and poetry, this course is covering a vast variety of skills, from character creation to dialogue. Since the start of the semester, however, the class has taken a new and interesting turn.

Rather than just teaching students the technical and creative skills that go into writing, Linganore’s Creative Writing class has assumed a therapeutic approach, hoping to improve students’ mental health through writing.

The class is being taught by English teacher Patricia Kolias. Although Kolias has taught creative writing in her previous school, this is her first time teaching the Creative Writing course at Linganore.

When asked about how mental health was being incorporated into the curriculum, Kolias said, “I think that when you teach a class like Creative Writing, or you teach a dance class, or you teach a class about music, all of those are ways to express yourself. So what I decided to do with the class is obviously stick with the curriculum of teaching creative writing but also mak[e] it a place where people can express themselves without judgment.”

She elaborated on how this would help: “When you feel comfortable, you’re going to share things about yourself that might help you to relieve yourself of some of the things that have been bothering you.”

Journaling is accepted as a common therapeutic practice, but for some it can be difficult or unpleasant to write about past experiences that are bothersome. This is where creative writing can help.

Through creative writing, people can create fictional characters that they can project emotions onto, which allows them to release stress without directly talking about their past experiences. Even without projection, the simple act of being creative can help. 

The article “Creativity is Your Secret Advantage for Mental Health and Well-Being” written by Ph.D. Brad Brenner says, “In 2015, psychologist and art therapist Dr. Cathy Malchiodi cited multiple studies confirming that being creative can increase positive emotions, lessen depressive symptoms, reduce stress, decrease anxiety, and even improve immune system functioning.”

So, in theory, this new therapeutic element of the creative writing class could really help students. But what impact has it actually had?

Senior Evelyn Stewart said, “I think [the mental health aspect of the class] had a pretty positive and major impact. Mrs. Kolias is really understanding and tends to be there for a lot of students, and this classroom feels like a safe place to be.”

Senior Ruby Cerny had similar thoughts: “I think there are a lot of positive things about [the mental health aspect of the class]. It’s really helpful to see and hear about everyone else’s stories and open up [myself].”

In addition to acknowledging how the mental health focus has been helpful to them personally, both students agreed that the class has also helped to improve their writing, showing that at its core it is still an academic class.

Patricia Kolias teaches students in Creative Writing class. (Izabella Manning).

When asked what her goal for the class was, Kolias said, “I hope that at the end of the class they [the students] are going to be more comfortable with writing about things that they may have been embarrassed to write about. [I want] to let them know that it’s okay to think and feel and experience the things that you are.”

Although it is too late to join the Creative Writing class for the 2022-2023 school year, as long as it gains enough interest, it will be offered again next year.

Stewart shared some advice for any student who is considering taking this class in the future but not sure it would be a good fit: “I would recommend it, but I feel like it takes a certain kind of person, and you have to be willing to share and be extremely vulnerable with the teacher and many other students. But, if you are willing to talk and enjoy those discussions like I do… if you wanna spend your class time writing a lot and talking a lot, then you probably would enjoy the class.”

If anyone is interested in exploring creative writing but can not wait until next school year, there is also a Creative Writing Club offered at LHS. Any student can join by messaging teacher Daniel Lake on Schoology or email at [email protected]