Creative writing in Libya


The British Library, London.

I have been teaching English for a while now, and I can obviously see  the high demand for private course and tutoring in this particular subject. However, what I never saw was any interest in Writing, or even scarcer, Creative writing. It seems like we all want to learn English and  become fluent in speaking the language, perhaps even good enough to write emails and tweets in it, but no one cares about the artistic aspects of it.

Which is why I was more than surprised when I was called a couple of weeks ago to fill in for a professor who had bailed out on a small English Creative Writing workshop. Besides the fact I was second choice for this -ahem ahem-, but also my ridiculous passion for all things written could sometimes unnerve people just a little, I had lowered both my expectations and enthusiasm and went in for the first day with simple materials and low key activities hoping to just get a feel of the atmosphere and the attendees. I was right to do so, I had 10 attendees but half of them knew nothing about creative writing and were unable to string a sentence together, one signed up thinking this was a conversation workshop, another was under the impression creative writing was reports, essays, and research. After having cleared that up, I could see the disinterest in their eyes.

The second day was when it all started, while only half of them attended, I can feel the eagerness right away. They wanted to be directed towards good material, shown the techniques, and were more than willing to do the silly  activities I assigned them to in hopes that it would stir up their mind and get them generating original ideas.

They seemed to enjoy it, but for me this was an opportunity to share what I knew about this particular subject. We read and re-read The Monkey’s Paw, analysed it over and over again, the plot, the tone, the characters, the language, the setting. I was impressed with the attention they paid to the words and the influence they had on the story. I can see the improvement when it was time to write, I picked a prompt which felt odd, but also gave the five of them plenty of room for creativity; What would you do if you were the last person on earth? This allowed me to see how they had really progressed in these few days because while their grammar was less than perfect, the ideas beneath the sentences were fantastic and  original in a sense that I had never read anything like it before.

I walked into that classroom thinking that any display of eagerness form me would reduce me to a fool in front of them, but in truth, we ended up gushing over sentences, words, and stories all alike. They completely threw me off by admiring creative works like Harry Potter and praising the imagination it must have took to create such details out of nothing. The Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi once said  ” the conventional wisdom was that Nigerians don’t read literature” and for a long time I believed that to be true about Libyans, but there I was with 5 amazing Libyans who were reading great works of literature and with a small show support, were generating their own.

P.s Ramadan Kareem ^_^

P.s.s I strongly advise anyone reading this to check out Chimamanda Ngozi’s TED talk on the danger of the single story here, enlightening and informative


2 thoughts on “Creative writing in Libya

  1. Tanks so much for sharing your experience with us, worth reading Wallahi!
    I think the writing in general considered as ond if the maun challsnges for Libyans who are speaking or trying to leanr it, however, the same thing applies for the Arabic writing skills, It is clear that most of the Libyan generations who didn’t improved their writing skills or who don’t have the passion of writing are yet facing this issue on how they could express their emitions and feelings by creative writing, I am one of those who still eagerly wants to learn the creative writing, social media, also in the professional or academic sector requiring this soft crucial tool.
    Good luck & looking forward to learn from you directly.

    With Kind Regards,
    Omar Farhat

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have been seeing a lot of discouraging reactions to even writing in Arabic, it all goes back to all the Ta3beer topics we had in school 😛 . Thank you so much for your comment, I am glad you liked the post!


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