Book Trailer The Noble Train

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What a Writing Course Can't Teach You

It might be a contradiction to think that fiction writing can be taught. There are people who clearly  believe you either have it or you don't and that people can coax you along but like a pitcher you have to have the talent to begin with. The problem with writing courses is they have to make hard and fast decisions on what works and doesn't work. Some Universities have their own system that is specific to their curriculum and promises the writer of fiction much improvement if they will only follow their system. The problem is that for a lot of people, a system of writing is death to their creativity.

I taught college fiction writing and saw this first hand. The school had a very specific way of teaching fiction and if I did not follow that methodology then I could go find somewhere else to teach thank you very much. So I slouched along, inserting some of my own philosophies into the course. What I found was writing students starved for an opposing point of view. A lot of these nascent fiction writers hated the system and basically shut down in protest. When I opened up the door that there might a lot of different ways to teach fiction, they breathed like coalminers who had just found light.

This brings up the real core problem with teaching fiction. It is an art. And because writing fiction is an art then like water it slips through your hand the second you try and contain it. Writing fiction is a lifestyle if not a way of living and that cannot be taught. It is not math or German or science. It is a mysterious intersection between the English language and the unconsciousness and therefore wholly undefinable. The real fiction writer will have to find his own way even after graduating from a school of writing. It is when you go off the road that things get interesting.

Books by William Hazelgrove