I was able to sneak in some creative writing into English 50 today. It's an intro composition class but after reading Zinsser's chapter on style from On Writing Well and then Steven Millhauser's The Ambition of the Short Story - I thought that it'd be a great exercise to try to have my students emulate the "style" or voice of another writer. Due to the weather, I picked rain as our theme and asked them to write a journal entry as if they were Millhauser: poetic in style but prosy in form, urgent with a flare for drama, with short, sweeping sentences and lots of rhetorical questions and metaphor.
Although I don't have their entries to share, I was blown away. They wrote some of their best stuff today because they were free to not be themselves, or free to pretend to not be themselves...finding that even when they are trying to sound like someone else, they often slip into their own unique voice and style. From a pedagogical standpoint, I think it's important to "open the floodgates" when it comes to writing essays - to treat and teach all forms of writing as creative acts. I should also note that I think it's important to participate in your own lessons and subject yourself to practicing what you preach.
Here's my "Millhauser-style" piece on rain.
The rain would like to swallow you whole. Every drop is a universe. Every sound is a song. The patter of rain on roofs embodies your breath. It is every moment you have yet to remember. The rain has loved you because that is its nature. Inclined to dive into the secrets you've kept in a drawer by your bed. The rain settles in your mind, builds a house, has a family. The rain grows old with you. And when you are lying there pressed by the light, rain whispers to you, takes your hand and you fall together from sight.