Creative Writing and Creative Consulting

Michael Hals, a sophomore English major with a Creative Writing concentration, started working this year as a consultant in the College’s Writing Lab, though he doesn’t often get to work with clients puzzling over poems and finessing their latest work of fiction. Yet he finds that his training as a creative writer has been an asset in his consulting work. In a recent piece that he published in The Palmetto State Writing Center Association’s digital newsletter, Hals describes how different the work of a writing consultant is from, say, the work of a math consultant: “[writing] consultants don’t have the luxury that the math or science labs do, where there are consistent formulas and laws to fall back on,” he writes. “A grand majority of the time the craft of writing an essay feels like alchemy where a solution of words and ideas are mysteriously mixed together to produce a perfect, golden composition for the professor. While there are structural elements common to all essays—paragraphs, introductions/conclusions, and theses—the constructed rhetorical arguments are completely decided by the writer.”

For Hals, this suggest “limitless possibilities,” and the work of the consultant is less to provide the correct answer than to stimulate the client’s capacity for creative problem solving:

As a consultant, I must listen to the problems assaying a writer and come up with suggestions to fix them almost immediately. It doesn’t really matter if my suggestions are the “right” ones; sometimes a consultant’s job is just to get the writer’s mental cogs turning long enough for them to discover their own solutions. Creativity is an individual’s capacity for creation, and being a creative writer makes it easier to think spontaneously, act in the moment, absorb my client’s dilemmas, and spit out ideas in a moment’s notice. It has been a great asset for me in the Writing Lab, and I can’t imagine consulting without it.

Dr. Bonnie Devet, who directs The Writing Lab, is always pleased when students use their unique background to help their peers:”I am glad to see when a consultant transfers his talents from one sphere to another as he assists student writers,” she notes. “Doing so reflects the consultant’s own development as a writer and thinker.”