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← How reading affects creativity and critical thinking | Hana Saleh | TEDxMisurata

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Zeige Revision 45 erzeugt am 04/02/2019 von Peter van de Ven.

  1. (Arabic) Peace be upon you.
  2. (Audience) (Arabic)
    Peace be upon you.
  3. I was 17 when I finally
    came back to Libya for good.
  4. Growing up in Switzerland,
  5. I believe the worst thing
    that I found really challenging as a kid
  6. was how to spell the word "Switzerland."
  7. Even now, decades later,
    as an assistant lecturer,
  8. I still despise writing that word.
  9. On my phone, I entered
    this word in shortcuts,
  10. using the English transliteration
    of "Sweesra," which is the Arabic version,
  11. and it would automatically
    write it for me,
  12. so thank goodness for technology.
  13. There's so many daunting words
    in almost all languages,
  14. either because of their spelling
    or because of their meaning per se,
  15. but still, that's not an excuse
    for us to not learn them.
  16. Life is a school, they say,
  17. and there are various elements
  18. that contribute
    to the formation of knowledge.
  19. Early on in life, we learn
    initially from our parents,
  20. but for certain mundane reasons,
    they just can't give it all.
  21. And that's perhaps
    why we need to go to school -
  22. in order to learn from other individuals
    who specialize in this field or that.
  23. Therefore, our language skills
    are established
  24. by means of absorbing the words
    that float out of coarse materials
  25. and the mouths of our teachers.
  26. With words we speak,
  27. and through speaking, we express ourselves
    and communicate with each other.
  28. But not all of us are gifted speakers.
  29. I for one am not an outspoken person,
  30. especially when it comes to expressing
    my inner thoughts and true emotions.
  31. As a child, I was a very shy person,
    especially with strangers,
  32. and no sooner, I found comfort in writing.
  33. In junior high school, I wrote
    a short composition about my childhood,
  34. and at the end of that day,
  35. I discovered that my teacher actually read
    that piece to almost half the school.
  36. He later on told me
  37. that my career would definitely
    have something to do with writing,
  38. and even at that time,
    I had a pretty good feeling that it would.
  39. In high school is when I actually started
    to read full-length novels.
  40. My first classic novel
    was written by Louisa May Alcott,
  41. "Little Women,"
  42. followed by contemporary works,
    namely Mills & Boon's.
  43. When I was 14,
    I was obsessed by comic books,
  44. like almost any other teenager.
  45. I used to read Nabil Farouk.
  46. He's the writer of "Adham Sabri:
    The Man of the Impossible."
  47. I also used to read the Archie comics.
  48. I was inspired by the character
    of Betty Cooper to write diary entries,
  49. and I still do so till now.
  50. When I started college,
  51. I discovered that there was a sort
    of lacking in my writing techniques,
  52. namely in organization,
  53. sentence structure and also focus.
  54. Now at that point,
    I thought I had been an avid reader,
  55. and that shouldn't be a problem for me.
  56. But that actually urged me
    to change my approach towards reading.
  57. I started reading as a student,
  58. which means not just reading for pleasure
  59. but also learning the tricks
    of the trade from the masters.
  60. With further motivation
    by my late colleague and mentor,
  61. Mrs. Sabah Kareem - God bless her soul -
  62. I decided to do
    my masters degree in writing,
  63. and by the end of 2010,
  64. I received my degree in writing
    for performance and publication
  65. from Leeds University.
  66. I had the greatest chance there
  67. of exploring my ability
    in writing short stories
  68. as well as writing for stage and screen.
  69. Creative writing honors imagination,
  70. so why does it seem
    like a secluded area or zone
  71. that we hardly delve into
  72. in order to give it the space
    to thrive and to flourish?
  73. Allow me now to talk about my experience
    teaching creative writing here, in Libya.
  74. And I say Libya as a whole
  75. because I believe
  76. this is an issue that prevails
    in almost all regions here in Libya:
  77. the problem of learning
    a foreign language and actually using it.
  78. In early 2010,
  79. shortly after I came back from the UK,
  80. I introduced creative writing
    for the first time in Misurata University.
  81. I was so excited about the whole thing,
  82. but apparently, the students weren't.
  83. Only one student
    enrolled for that semester.
  84. And therefore the course
    had to be canceled.
  85. But the next semester was quite promising;
  86. I had 11 students - not bad -
  87. followed by 50,
  88. and then a whopping 80 at one semester.
  89. Now, for creative writing,
    the number of students can be problematic,
  90. especially if they are crammed
    in a classroom of 35 students or so.
  91. The real difficulty, however,
    is when you realize
  92. that they actually don't get it.
  93. So how's that?
  94. Regardless of the many occasions
    in which they come to me
  95. quite frankly and say, "We hate writing."
  96. I believe the dominant reasons
    behind this hatred, in their opinion,
  97. is because "I don't know how to write,"
  98. and "Why should I? I don't have to."
  99. So "How do I write?"
    versus "Why should I write?"
  100. Now, with regards to the first question,
    I will not touch upon illiteracy,
  101. because definitely,
  102. anybody who has been through
    a considerable amount of schooling
  103. would definitely know
    how to put pen to paper.
  104. With creative writing,
    I am dealing with writing short stories.
  105. And for that, you will need
    to come up with ideas.
  106. Normally, ideas come from inspiration,
  107. and the thing that seems to hinder
    my students is limited muse.
  108. They have confined, or limited, themselves
  109. into a very limited, basically,
  110. range of topics and themes,
  111. let alone a list of inadequate
    words to choose from.
  112. Now, personally,
  113. I'm not very talented
    in creating or conducting surveys,
  114. but according to my experience
    teaching creative writing for three years,
  115. I believe the dominant topics and themes
    that I have come across are as follows:
  116. So we have five columns.
  117. We'll start with poverty,
  118. poverty as a means
    to actually lead the main character
  119. to take up jobs that are quite demeaning.
  120. For example, he has to cook in a kitchen,
  121. or he has to be a house cleaner,
  122. or maybe he becomes a thug.
  123. The second one -
  124. which is quite popular
    by the girls, by the way -
  125. marriage.
  126. The main character
    has to leave the one she loves
  127. in order to, you know, marry someone else
  128. who is either richer or has some kind
    of higher influence in society.
  129. Cancer seems to be the winning ailment
  130. whenever there is a chance
  131. for them to talk about someone
    who gets ill and later on dies.
  132. So this is the easiest way,
    the easiest route, towards death.
  133. And then car accident.
  134. This is quite surprising to me
  135. because every time
    they want to kill the parents,
  136. they have them killed in a car accident.
  137. Social disputes are namely inheritance,
  138. the ever-evil uncle
  139. and the love triangles
    that happen at school.
  140. Now, some of you might think
    that this is actually fine
  141. given the students' background.
  142. It actually is fine
  143. because people tend to write
    about things that they know truly well.
  144. But the problem is when they write
    about things or stories
  145. they believe is what other people
    expect from them.
  146. This is where the limitation lies.
  147. Now, imagine, if we go back to this box,
  148. imagine this is the structure
    of our culture - these five columns -
  149. incredibly limited,
  150. and at the same time,
    it really gets tiring
  151. when you're subject to it every semester.
  152. There was this one semester
    when I firmly announced to my students,
  153. "Please don't kill the parents
    in a car accident.
  154. If you don't want them in the story,
    then just keep them home, safe and sound,
  155. and then move on
    to something worthy of telling."
  156. We need to think
    outside this cultural box.
  157. A foreign colleague of mine once said,
  158. "We're dealing with students
    who haven't really experienced life."
  159. And he was right.
  160. How can we expect creativity from students
  161. whose experience range is probably
    three out of five of these columns?
  162. That is when we need
    to put a book in one's hand.
  163. Reading not only makes you
    become a better writer:
  164. Through living the lives
    of fictitious characters,
  165. we learn from how they deal
    with abnormal circumstances
  166. and learn from their mishaps.
  167. We also delve into the various
    cultures of life, of the world,
  168. and there's our free ticket:
  169. we have successfully broadened our minds,
  170. and we're practically ready
    for the extraordinary.
  171. So if we go back to this box
  172. and imagine that we have students
  173. who have read books that actually relate
    to these topics and themes,
  174. What are the possibilities,
  175. what are the creative possibilities
    that they will be able to present?
  176. So here we have the five topics
    that I mentioned earlier,
  177. the five things that seem to be on repeat,
  178. and examples of novels
    that deal with these themes.
  179. "The Hunger Games" is a very good example
    that talks about poverty,
  180. by Suzanne Collins.
  181. The main character
    is forced to enter a tournament
  182. where contestants actually
    kill each other in order to win.
  183. There's an idea.
  184. The second one,
  185. "Pride and Prejudice," by Jane Austen.
  186. Now, this is a novel that's been written
    almost 200 years ago,
  187. two centuries ago.
  188. The thing that makes it long lasting
    and still alive is because -
  189. I mean for this specific
    topic of marriage -
  190. is because the main character,
    Elizabeth Bennet,
  191. actually opposed social code.
  192. Imagine that happening back then.
  193. "My Sister's Keeper"
  194. has brilliant issues
    or cases of health issues,
  195. by Jodi Picoult.
  196. We have more than one, which is cancer.
  197. We have acute promyelocytic leukemia,
  198. which is blood and bone marrow cancer.
  199. We also have drug abuse in this novel
    and a case of epilepsy.
  200. I will not comment on the car accident:
    please don't kill the parents.
  201. So, moving on to social
    disputes, the last one,
  202. "In the Country of Men,"
    written by our very own Hisham Matar.
  203. Here we have a story about political chaos
  204. that actually affected a domestic life
  205. as a result to what was going on
    here in Libya back in the '70s.
  206. So, before I move on,
  207. I'd like to quickly acknowledge
    some of the previous works of my students
  208. who have been able to come up
    with extremely creative stories.
  209. One student wrote a story
    about an American who converted to Islam
  210. after living among a group
    of Tuaregs here in Libya.
  211. A second good example is -
    one of the students wrote about
  212. the struggle of a man who's trying to flee
    the Rwandan Civil War in the early '90s.
  213. The third example
    I'd like to present to you
  214. is about a creature
    who's created from mist,
  215. and he's the last of his kind
  216. and the only one who's able
    to stand in the face of evil.
  217. This was written by the translator
    that's translating to you, by the way.
  218. So, going back to those two questions.
  219. How do I write
    now that we've read,
  220. now that we've broadened our minds?
  221. Well, of course,
  222. you need to start reading books
    that might be of interest to you
  223. and for authors who are actually -
  224. whose style of writing
    you find interesting.
  225. And then you start putting pen to paper.
  226. You scribble.
  227. You draft.
  228. You redraft, maybe 100 times.
  229. And then you're done.
  230. The second question - why should I?
  231. Well, actually you don't have to write
  232. unless you're one of my students -
  233. then you just have to do it.
  234. Storytelling is an art;
  235. it allows you to translate
    your inner thoughts
  236. and perhaps your philosophy in life.
  237. And that's actually why
    people enjoy reading.
  238. There's a literature
    that needs to be conveyed
  239. for generations to coexist and intertwine.
  240. I'd like to conclude
    with a quote by Elif Shafak,
  241. the author of "The Forty Rules of Love."
  242. Okay.
  243. "Isn't connecting people to distant lands
    and countries and cultures
  244. one of the great strengths
    of good literature?"
  245. Indeed, it is.
  246. So let's start thinking outside that box.
  247. Thank you.
  248. (Applause)