1. bruce
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    bruce Active Member

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    Can creative writing be taught?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by bruce, Mar 24, 2010.

    Can creative writing be taught? What is your personal opinion about this?
     
  2. pinelopikappa
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    pinelopikappa Senior Member

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    Several aspects of it can be taught, if you see it as a craft, like I see it.

    But the love and commitment it takes cannot be taught, I think.

    So it's yes- and no.:rolleyes:
     
  3. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    Yes. Yes it can.

    With a dutiful teacher who gives good, harsh critique and demands that the student practice, creative writing can be taught just like any other skill. There is an element of talent in there, but there is an element of talent in all things. Natural skill can't be taught. Real skill- the kind that's built up through practice and care- can.
     
  4. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Absolutely it can. Obviously so in certain ways--improving your vocabulary, mastering grammar, widening your knowledge of literary tradition, conventions and styles through extensive reading. In other aspects--imagination, creativity, the ability to create and evoke characters or settings--it may be more difficult to develop a talent where none exists, but I think with practice and study (and a great deal of effort), it can be learnt.
     
  5. Cecil
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    Cecil Member

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    Anyone can learn how to play the piano, but there's only one Mozart.

    Natural talent really just gives you a head start when developing a skill. So if two people work equally hard, than the one with the biggest head start will likely stay in the lead. However, hard work is still the larger factor.

    The other factor is that only certain kinds of people would be willing to put in all of the hard work required for certain skills, and how much work you are willing to put in is usually proportional to how much you like doing something.

    Therefore, the biggest factor in determining creative writing skill is simply how much you love creative writing. That kind of love can be learned by an individual through life, but I don't think it can be taught by someone else.

    But a person who really loves it, can certainly be taught it.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Of course it can.

    This falls under The Universe Is Not Universally Fair law.

    Some are born with a faculty for the creative, others must work at it, others must struggle.

    It is not impossible, just unequally easy. ;)
     
  7. Jobeykobra
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    Jobeykobra Member

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    The mechanics of it can be taught, but it's the creativity of the person naturally which makes a creative writer. My creative nonfiction teacher always says, "I can teach you to write, but I can't teach you to be deep. I can't teach you to feel."
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    of course it can, since it is... but, as noted above, only the technical aspects can be 'taught'... the talent, imagination, and ability to learn those skills that it takes to be a good creative writer can't be...
     
  9. Sabreur
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    Sabreur Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like what Wreybies said. Everyone can write, some are just seemingly more talented at it. There is however, no "elite" group of people who are innately good at writing and the rest of us are just plebes, struggling to catch up to their natural ability.

    That would be idiotic. Everyone thinks, everyone feels. With proper training and instruction, as well as dedication and motivation, anyone can be a great writer.
     
  10. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I disagree. Like the others have said, there's more to writing than just the technical aspects. Some people write their entire lifetimes but don't produce anything good. There are elements of creativity and imagination that just can't be taught.
     
  11. Sabreur
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    Sabreur Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nonsense. That is just people wanting to think they are unique. Creativity and imagination cannot be taught but they can be nurtured and strengthened through instruction/aid. To say that some people are just born "creative" and others are not is nonsensical elitism. Everyone has the potential to be good. If they aren't, it isn't some fluke of birth, it isn't because the writing gods parcelled out a lesser share of "creativity" to that particular person and that is that. It is because they aren't dedicated enough, they haven't received the correct instruction for their mode of thinking or a million other reasons.

    However, the potential is there. People just have to be prepared to work harder. To some it comes easier, for whatever reason. Maybe they have more neural connections in a particular region of their brain? Who cares. The point is, if something doesn;t come easy to you, work harder, seek instruction that fits your particular brand of thought. Maybe you are more abstract and you have been taught to write in a manner that is more concrete. Or vice versa.
     
  12. NewBee
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    NewBee Senior Member

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    I definitely believe it can be taught, (the craft that is).

    I'm fairly new at writing myself, and am doing some "self-teaching" at the moment. I am reading a text on The Craft Of Narrative Writing. The book points out HUNDREDS of writing techniques I never picked up on as a reader. Practicing these techniques for only a few weeks I look back at some of my older work and shake my head. I'm getting better already. HAHA! Don't get me wrong there's a long way for me to go ;)

    But the passion and discipline comes from within the individual for sure.
     
  13. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    True, but there are some people who might study a foreign language for their entire lifetime and still be rubbish at it. That doesn't mean that foreign languages can't be taught, it just means that aptitude (and other factors) can limit how good a person gets.
     
  14. Dean_Mehrkens
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    Dean_Mehrkens Banned

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    I agree with digitig. Someone can have a lot of knowledge but still lack ability.

    Like any other skill, of course it can be taught. If not, writer's wouldn't be constantly urged to hone their craft by practicing.
     
  15. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    Creative writing can be taught?

    How to be GOOD at it?

    That's another story. =)
     
  16. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I never said some people are born more creative than others. I only said that there are elements of creativity that must come from the individual. For example, if someone else imagines the plot and characters for me, then that doesn't make me a fiction writer. Besides, if you claim that everyone has the potential to be good, then how come there aren't more Shakespeares? Or Einsteins?

    I just want to point out that if a person can speak one language, than he can easily speak another with a lifetime of study. Besides, when a person is learning a language, he patterns his speech around that of his instructor. That's something that's not good in creative writing, where the emphasis is on the style of the individual. That's actually one reason I don't like creative writing classes. They tend to produce cookie-cutter writers.
     
  17. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    Perhaps a better question might be, "Do we get results when we teach or take a creative writing course?" Because we can certainly teach grammar, punctuation, vocabulary, the creative arch, how to avoid deux ex machina and Mary Sue characters, and whatnot.

    The question is, "Do you benefit from taking a course like this?" And there are two schools of thought in the reply.

    One school says, "No - you will not really benefit from a creative writing class." Meaning that you could be better served by using the time to read and write, to practice the craft. It's also true that creative arcs and similar concepts are theoretically easy to learn about; going on to the TV Tropes wiki will teach you quite a bit there, although Wikipedia might be better as it's less of a time suck. You may be able to get "deadlines" and specific projects for yourself by going to a writing class, but that won't help you in the long run. Would you brag that you had taught someone "carpentry" in a shop class if they never touched a saw or ruler outside your class? Would you brag that you had taught yourself how to juggle if you tried it once at a county fair, did an okay job, and then stopped -- or nearly stopped, so that you would bring the juggling beanbags out at special occasions, but didn't normally pursue that hobby for fun?

    The other school says, "Yes, it helps." Being forced (in order to get a good grade) to write in a format which may not be familiar to you will expand your writing ability. Creative writing classes frequently require you to read short stories, which is a useful resource, and will not only teach you about the terms "characterization," "plot," "storyline," "deux ex machina," and so on, but put them into context for you. By making you write on a schedule, creative writing classes may show you that yes, you CAN make yourself write on a deadline, which is a valuable skill which may very well stick after the class is over. And classes can inspire you, get your creative juices flowing, so that you'll write more on your own during the course (and hopefully afterward) even though some of your time is taken up with the class.

    My own opinion, perhaps unsurprisingly, is that it depends on the person. Some folks are good at self-motivating and self-educating. Some aren't, and benefit from being forced by a writing class to learn about the craft, how to stick to deadlines, how to look at their own work, and how to compare their work to that of published authors.

    An example: It is extremely useful to be able to self-edit one's work, and while at this point I don't know how much of what I know can be attributed to what I've learned from "How-To" books or classes, I suspect that the single most useful chapter in Steven King's On Writing is the one where he shows the reader several pages of a first draft, and then edits it, cutting out unneeded adverbs, tightening prose, jotting down an additional descriptive sentence for a major recurring character, and so on. You don't usually get to see such a demonstration if you don't take writing classes or read how-to books, and I suspect that I owe a great deal of my current confidence to the fact that I have seen first drafts edited for reasons which are clear and understandable by me.
     
  18. Kirvee
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    Kirvee Contributing Member

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    I'm in a Creative Writing class right now. It's good, I think I'm learning a little more about how to properly do a story, but my teacher does one thing wrong.

    Teacher: Write a story on this topic!
    Me: Ok!*goes to start on it*
    Teacher: Hold on! You have to outline it before you start! You can't start it without an outline!

    WTF, sure, some things may need an outline, but it's better if you let the story flow >_>. It's like one of my favorite quotes says, "Most teachers will tell you that you need to make a careful plan of your story before starting. This is because most teachers do not write stories."
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    My instinctive response to that teacher would probably be, "No, you need to outline before you start writing, but that doesn't mean I need to."

    On the other hand, the teacher is entitled to teach one particular approach, and expect the students to follow it. So the real meaning of her statement may have been, "No, for this class, you are expected to outline your story first. Don't start the story until you have an outline."

    After all, if you haven't tried it both ways, how do you know you don't work better with an outline?
     
  20. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm currently in my first year at university studying Creative Writing so I must think it can be taught. I think a creative writing course can teach you about certain elements of creative writing, and it's good for other creative writers to look at your writing and comment/criticise it. It gives you a wider perspective on your writing and how others perceive it. Also, it opens up other styles of writing that you may not have thought to experiment with, and allows you to read books that you may not have thought about reading before and learning a great deal from them.
    I think some people are just natural writers, but we all have to work at the craft. No writing is perfect.
     
  21. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not true, actually. The ability to learn languages naturally tails off between the ages of 7 and 14, and it is far more difficult to learn a language after that. But it can be done, and some people are better at it than others.
     
  22. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    1. I do not think creativity can be taught in terms of getting someone who struggles with the creative aspect to suddenly become brilliantly creative. I do think a good chunk of that is inherent, instinctive, the whole left/right brain thing.

    2. I think the craft can absolutely be taught.

    In some cases, if you lack in creativity, I believe that craft can carry you through. If you lack craft, creativity can carry you.

    But, in the end, I think there needs to be a balance.

    A creative person allowed to go willy nilly across the page, w/no regard to craft or audience, well . . . the lack of form and structure will alienate readers.

    A person who understands craft, but has very little creativity . . . well, there's always rhet/comp. :)

    I've seen both in the classroom, and both are equally as painful to read. It's usually someone with a nice blend of both (doesn't have to be in equal parts) that tends to grow and flourish the most. I feel it's both of these "parts" working together, against each other, mingling, pushing, playing, that help a writer grow. Perhaps it's a duality within is that urges us to grow as writers?

    Perhaps there is no "formula" at all.

    But, as someone who teaches creative writing, I definitely believe it can be taught. But, I also think it takes a certain kind of person to:

    1. admit to flaws
    2. be willing to fail miserably
    3. check their egos at the door (they do not know everything and neither do I)
    4. have the discipline to write on a regular basis.
    5. have a genuine love for SOME element of the craft.

    I'm sure there is more, but that's what I have right now.
     
  23. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It doesn't matter. Some languages are linguistically so similar that it is very easy to learn them (take Spanish and Portuguese, or even English and German, as an example). So then it is easy to learn a language, but I agree that it would be harder if I told someone to learn a specific language.

    Anyways, back on topic. I just realized that all the creative writing classes at my university are only for poetry or short stories. Is this true for all universities? Or are there some classes that focus on novel writing?
     
  24. DvnMrtn
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    DvnMrtn Contributing Member

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    As it has been said already, the necessary skills can be taught and learned over time, however the passion and commitment is something that each individual must obtain on their own. It is the passion & commitment that will make or break you as a writer in the end.
     
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  25. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Teaching and Learning are not entirely symmetrical. You can teach (i.e. offer) techniques and formal skills such as spelling, puntuation and grammar. You can teach principles of good dialogue and vivid description. You can even teach thought processes tat can help stimulate the fow of ideas.

    But presenting material on a platter does not mean it will be received. Learning is not a passive process, and creative endeavors are where this is most apparent. Facts and prosesses can be memorized with little effort, but the subtleties that come not from generalization, but from bold exploration, can be learned but not taught.

    Whether someone can generate creativity in oneself, where very little was before, is something I cannot answer with any certainty. Is inquisitivity and desire another face of creativity, or are they independent qualities? And how could you prove it?
     

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