Learning at Write Yourself Free
Here at Write Yourself Free, our teachers are educated in Patrick McCord's Cognitive Method for teaching. The Cognitive Method is a whole system of thinking that is, in most ways, radically different from the way "Creative Writing Workshops" are traditionally taught. As a system, there are some foundational ideas and skills on which more complicated concepts are built.
Our system/method for teaching narrative---whether short story, novel, screenplay, or memoir---uses cognitive science as a basis. Basing instruction and paradigms on neurology and cognitive psychology---research and hard data---we can dispense with the usual (you'll pardon the expression) confusing hokum. Human beings are genetically disposed to use story models as the basis for language, for understanding the self, and for creating models of the way the world works; however, the traditional way we think of "story as a structure"---from Aristotle to Robert McKee---is neither very accurate nor necessarily the best way to teach story writing.
“In Patrick McCord’s Master Class, you won’t just grind out writing prompt after writing prompt, hoping to improve. You’ll get a blueprint for building your story ideas, at the same time you’ll let go of the old habits that inhibit or paralyze you.”
—Charles Stafford, The Seven Deadlies
What to expect
Here's what to expect in your Class:
We begin each class with a discussion about a specific cognitive writing skill, followed by an in-class writing to activate that concept. Writers will develop a repertoire of writing tools to use in every phase of the writing process.
In the second half of class, each writer reads aloud a short selection lasting about six minutes. Every writer briefly responds to the reader’s text by citing what “works”—what was funny, fresh, compelling, or tragic? Limiting response to only what is effective text alerts writers to their strengths, so it’s not long before they’re writing with renewed confidence; over time, this process will decondition self-sabotaging “inner criticism” which is the result of the penalty-based writing instruction we got in school.
Patrick will offer every writer advice about specific next steps for improvement. Reading aloud fast-tracks new storytelling consciousness because you’re activating all the cognitive-creative telling skills that humans used tens of thousands of years before we learned to write.
Taking a tight focus on a short passage every week exposes just enough of the work to see the fundamental aspects. Writing Classes are limited to only six students per class so every student reads aloud and gets feedback every week; working every week assures progress.
Here's a brief example: all other writing approaches that I know of, teach drafting and revising as one continuous process using the same skill sets. "Writing is rewriting" is the cliche you have no doubt heard. But if you're revising the same way you drafted (sentence by sentence), you're wasting time and missing a chance to think in new creative ways. In our cognitive model, idea generation (drafting) and project completion (revision) are two radically different ways of thinking. We teach our students to see the difference and adjust their expectations and skills making the writing far more pleasurable and speedy, and delivering better outcomes. learning such practical concepts with a vocabulary that actually fits how you think gives the writer tremendous power and insight.
Also, the Write Yourself Free system isn't just about structural concepts; we address the whole writing endeavor, from nurturing your writing practice; to a tool boxful of innovative processes, to effective ways to conceptualize and complete satisfying projects.
So, if you have written in both novel and screenplay forms, let me suggest taking an Introductory Class. Story is story in any form, so I often use movies to illustrate key points; you will bring in fresh work each week, so you are actively learning at every class meeting.
Our classes mix returning students and published writers with new talents. We also mix narrative genres as well. Memoir, fiction, drama, screenwriting, and even the occasional poem can happily coexist in the same class, and the mix helps us to refine our listening and thinking skills.
Note for new students: For your first class meeting, bring in a story or a part of a story (not an essay) to read aloud (6 minutes, no longer). Also bring pen and paper: handwriting materials.
Most importantly, write like you think
The human mind already has every tool you would possibly need to craft the next great American novel. Come to class and get the strategies and methods to access those tools using cognitive neurology, evolutionary theory, and philosophy of the workings of the human mind. Get back to the basics and uncover your story.
“There’s no such thing as writer’s block. There’s never a time when you need to feel stuck or like you’re waiting for inspiration. Any writer, from rank beginner to seasoned pro, can learn simple, logical writing strategies that will always energize you and keep you writing. Don’t suffer for your art. You should be having fun. That’s why you started writing in the first place.”