Book Trailer For Madam President

Friday, February 7, 2014

Can Writing Be Taught?

Something to wrestle with. The problem is teaching has nothing to do with writing. We were all taught to diagram sentences with grammar spelling and punctuation. This can be taught. We can be assigned papers. We can complete the papers but this is not teaching writing. John Gardner in the Art of Fiction basically says that you have to have the talent in the first place. That if this talent is not there then no amount of teaching will do  it.

I am teaching an advanced fiction class at a private college and it is a question that pops up. Can writing be taught? Even craft is a hard one to teach to someone because it is the experimentation of rewriting that is craft. Basically writers have to be wired up. Their brains have to figure out why one word works when another one does not.

And of course we are talking connotation and denotation. What does a word really do. And this is something instinctual that no amount of courses can give you. I would even argue writing courses hurt writers because they codify what should never have been codified in the beginning. Still one has to try and convey what one has learned.

And so maybe it is like the old nudge the horse to water scenario.
But the thirst must be there.

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