Is there any benefit in studying creative writing?

Let me be blunt (a thing foreign to my character)! I do not believe that one can learn to be a writer by studying creative writing or by participating in creative writing events. I must, in fairness caveat the forgoing statement by making it clear that I have no background in creative writing (I neither studied the subject nor have I taken part in creative writing groups so, on this basis some may decide to take my opinion with a very large pinch of salt).

So what is my objection to creative writing courses and/or creative writing groups? I have no beef with like-minded people who wish to meet together either online or in the real world to discuss writing and bounce ideas off one another. I am sure such discussions can be highly stimulating and I know of people who have greatly enjoyed participating in them. No doubt ideas spawned in creative writing discussions have led to the composition of great literature. However observing a country scene, a conversation with a friend and many other experiences can (and have) led to the production of great art (I.E. there is, in my view nothing uniquely special about the creative writing process (by which I mean that which occurs in academic institutions)that ought to cause us to accord it particular privilege.

I stand to be corrected but, to my knowledge very few (if any) of the literary greats studied creative writing. Dickens, Tolstoy, Shakespeare and Blake (to name but a few) certainly did not. They perfected their craft through hard slog, trial and error which is, in my experience how the vast majority of writers improve their writing craft.

There are, in this world a multiplicity of individuals and organisations who promise (usually, but not always for financial recompense) to make us more beautiful, richer or yes (you guessed it) great writers. Some of these people do, no doubt mean well and are convinced that they can teach the art of writing. Perhaps, in some instances they kindle within the budding writer that spark which leds on to the production of a literary masterpiece. Perhaps? perhaps Not?

In conclusion, one can not (in my view) learn to write by studying creative writing. One perfects the ability to write by hard slog and burning the midnight oil. Beware of snake oil salesmen who say “sign up to this course” “, “buy my book on creative writing” etc “and you will learn how to write. I welcome comments from anyone irrespective of your point of view. If you have gained from attending a creative writing course do please comment. Likewise, if your experience has been mixed or negative do, please also input.

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49 thoughts on “Is there any benefit in studying creative writing?

      1. roughseasinthemed

        Probably 50/50 Kevin. Sitting on the fence! I do think plot, tension, pacing and all that is important. Whether it needs to be taught is another matter. If it needs to be taught …

        As a reader, reviewer, and editor, I see a load of tosh, but I see good writing too. I do think people who have got master’s degrees in creative writing or a BA in Eng Lit get overly much credit. I’ve spent 30 years in the industry.

      2. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

        Thanks Kate. Your response is interesting. I worry with creative writing courses that tutors may (with the best will in the world) shape students in their own image. As an aside, I find fence sitting gives me splinters …! All the best Kevin

      3. roughseasinthemed

        Thanks Kevin. For those of us who have been paid to write as a career, I suspect we come at this topic cynically. I had to rewrite a document written by an MBA grad (yeah I’ve got one too) that was, quite honestly, incoherent. Same with fiction. There is good and deplorable.

      4. mybipolarbeast

        First time blogger , first time comment. To be honest I respect your views but from personal experience I have found through going to open university and studying creative writing/English lit my skills have improved. Personally I think It takes a certain type of person to be creative and come up with new ideas instead of churning out work which is the same. Anyone can write a story but it takes a true artist to turn that story into an art piece and yes individuality cannot be taught but technique can. For one who finds ideas for a story easy my down fall is my technique and university has taught me numerous things from structure, plagiarism to editing.

  1. The Past Due Book Review

    Coming from the other side (having studied creative writing) I must respectfully disagree. For one thing, I think it shows in the structure and length of your paragraphs that you have not studied creative writing because block paragraphs such as those are displeasing to the eye and will turn off many readers.

    While you propose argument that many of the “greats” didn’t study creative writing, it wasn’t taught formally until the mid-20th century as a program within academia, so the majority of famous authors couldn’t have studied it by default. I don’t mean to come down on you but your argument lacks sufficient evidence except for your own individual case.

    I agree that anyone looking for a book to read that will magically make them into a good writer will find that their search is as futile as those who look for a magic diet pill, but to say that someone cannot benefit from creative writing classes or that there hasn’t been a successful author who has gone through a writing program is simply ignorant.

    As you state, the time-tested way to improve as a writer is to write and write and write and write; this is how many hone their craft and their individual voices as writers, but I still believe a formal study of those who have come before is beneficial for any creative writer. Now, I saw plenty of people in my creative writing classes who ended up choosing other fields of study because they simply couldn’t benefit from the curriculum and I can respect that. Many of them expected to enter the class novices and leave as publishing authors, which is never the case. What worked for me might not work for you and that is okay, but such generalizations only divide us and lead to unfair judgments.

    Though I disagree with you, I am glad you brought this up for discussion!

    Reply
    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      Thank you for your comment. Its helpful to have input from someone who has studied creative writing.
      As regards the literary greats, I do, of course take your point that creative writing was not available as a subject of study until comparatively recently. However, the point is that they did not need to study creative writing to become great. Their talent shone through without having done so.
      I did not say that there has never been a successful author who has benefited from creative writing. I said “I stand to be corrected”. in accordance with that statement, I would be pleased where a commenter to furnish an example of such an individual or individuals.
      In my view, the use of particular paragraph styles is peripheral to the debate. Writing is about getting one’s story/poem/message across effectively by the utilisation of language. A good proof reader/editor can be highly effective in ensuring the final manuscript is well presented from the point of view of the removal of formatting and typographical errors, thereby leaving the writer free to concentrate on what he (or she) does best, writing.
      Finally, I would be interested to know how you benefited from studying creative writing?

      Reply
      1. The Past Due Book Review

        As others have stated, with any discipline that requires talent, there is no amount of practice or money that you can spend if you don’t a. enjoy what you do or b. have some sort of knack for it. I realize that you were pointing out the talent of those writers, but whether or not they needed to take classes is a moot point. You said in your first sentence that creative writing classes can’t teach someone to be a writer but your evidence and sub-points divert too far into the area of speculation and personal opinion to back it up.

        Margaret Atwood and Stephen King are two big names I can drop. Honestly, you can search “published authors who took creative writing classes” and come up with your own list in your own time if you so wish.

        Formatting is an integral an author’s voice; very conscious decisions are made regarding paragraph size, speech tags, rhythm and diction of characters that will separate one author from another (take the work of Cormac McCarthy and his intentional dismissal of traditional punctuation). If you do work with an editor, I feel sorry for them because to rely on them so heavily not only reduces the fidelity if your voice as a writer but puts unnecessary work onto them. While editors are there to correct grammar and spelling errors it is still an important habit to maintain as a writer, especially when you are posting online and (I assume) editing your own work.

        I have personally benefited in my ability to give (and receive) constructive criticism, to acknowledge other styles and types of writing that I may not enjoy myself but that I can nonetheless respect, and taking workshop classes has helped my interpersonal communication skills. I can change narrative distance and personality to determine how close or far away from the situation my reader feels in my prose. I can write to different tones from formal and informal to switching between the average amount of syllables in the words I use. I assume the implied question was whether or not my work has been published, and the answer is an honest no. However, that doesn’t devalue the work I have put into my education, my writing, or the benefits of both.

        I understand the anti-writing course sentiment and the feeling that those of us who choose that path are trying to take the easy way by simply being taught rather than learning on our own, but that is a misconception. I chose to study English at the college level because writing is something I have loved and enjoyed since I was little; if wanting to learn the techniques of those who came before and be able to analyze them in order to become a better writer is blasé or makes me seem haughty, then I suppose that’s I am.

        Again, I respect the difference in our opinions, but to be so dismissive of creative writing courses and students as a whole seems unfair to me. I felt the need to voice my opinion here and realize that I am on your page, so I mean no disrespect.

      2. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

        Thank you for your detailed response and for providing the names of authors who have attended creative writing courses. I still believe that talent has a tendency to out irrespective of whether a writer studied literature and/or creative writing. I dont deny that studying the work of other writers can enhance the ability of an author/poet to produce of his/her best. I developed early on in life a love of poetry and have read many poets. By so doing my appreciation of poetry and (I believe) capacity to write it, has been enhanced. This has occured in the absence of attending a creative writing course. I am pleased, however that you and others have derived benefit from having done so. The purpose of my post was to stimulate debate and I certainly had no intention of causing offense. I didn’t criticise individuals. Rather I spoke in general terms. while, in contrast some of your comments appear to be directed at me as an individual, which is regretable. How I choose to use paragraphs is a matter for me. Likewise it is a matter for you as to how you construct your writing. I am always willing to engage in debate and if you would like to write a guest post putting your point of view on this or any other writing/literary matter, please do get in touch at newauthoronline (at) gmail dot com (the address is given thus to avoid spammers).

      3. iwannabealady

        I agree whole-heartedly. I studied English in college because I love, not only the stories or ideas, but the craft of writing. I was introduced to new styles that I may not have found on my own; I was made aware of techniques that I had overlooked; I was given feedback from those who had clear and objective intents.

        Writing is an art form. Or should I say literature is an art. Not everyone who writes has the passion to be a writer. Writing literature is more than communicating a point. It’s realizing how many possible ways there are to communicate it. I rearrange sentences, change words, break paragraphs, etc. It’s a labor of love.

        To me, a writer who has no interest in formatting or structure is like a mechanic who doesn’t like to get his hands dirty, or a surgeon who leaves the actual cutting open to someone else. My readers know me, not only by my voice, but by the rhythm with which I choose to tell stories or convey my thoughts.

        Of course, sitting around with a bunch of people who are too scared to say anything truly critical is a waste of time. But true constructive criticism and exposure to new ideas, being given challenges, can never hurt a writer.

  2. Jack Eason

    I on the other hand, agree with you Kevin. You are correct when you say that the writers of yesteryear had no access to writer’s groups in your post. Just as well. Otherwise they would not have gained their reputation as consumate authors.
    Either you are a born writer or you’re not. No amount of talking to others or sharing ideas in these groups will make an iota of difference if you have no talent as a writer to begin with.

    Reply
    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      Thank you for your comment Jack. I agree that inate talent must be there to begin with. This can, I believe be stimulated by everything from beautiful surroundings which feed the writer’s soul to the encouragement of friends. However I remain unconvinced that creative writing is all it is often cracked up to be.

      Reply
  3. Stevie Turner

    You either have a talent for writing or you don’t. Creative writing courses can hone that talent, but the ability to tell a good story is innate in a person from the start.

    Reply
  4. Lucy Brazier

    I’m with you, Kevin – although I must also point out that I have never studied creative writing or been to any of these courses. A friend suggested one to me only the other day but in all honesty, I cannot think of anything worse than being stuck with a bunch of writers over the course of a long weekend. The thing I like most about writing is that it is solitary! I have, on the other hand, read a couple of books about creative writing. They were of no use to me personally, although if you are starting out as a writer with literally no experience and barely any talent, they perhaps might help you produce something marginally less embarrassing than you might have.
    Some people just can’t write well and no amount of coaching or training will change that. And that’s fine – if they enjoy writing, that’s what counts. I’m never going to be Jimi Hendrix but that doesn’t stop me playing guitar for my own amusement.
    The chap above who respectfully disagrees makes some very good points and seems to have extensive experience of such things – however, does anyone really care if paragraphs are ‘pleasing to the eye?’ Anyone calling themselves a ‘reader’ who is put off by a large paragraph needs to man up 😉

    Reply
    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      Thanks Lucy. I agree with your comments. In particular
      “Some people just can’t write well and no amount of coaching or training will change that. And that’s fine – if they enjoy writing, that’s what counts”.
      I enjoy music but will never be a musician. I freely admit that. Likewise some people do not possess the capability of becoming writers but can (as you say) still enjoy writing purely for the pleasure they derive from it.
      It saddens me when people describe themselves as “writing gurus” thereby implying that they can turn those who are not writers into prolific authors. This is unfair to people, particularly where the “training” is provided in exchange for payment.
      I am also concerned that those offering may (sometimes with the best of intensions) shape budding writers in their own mould. A few people have asked me to comment on their poems as they know I am a poet. While I am always delighted to help others, I am reluctant to make suggestions for “improvements” as I have my own particular style, while others have theirs. I dont want to turn anyone into a carbon copy of myself an, besides I have never laid claim to be any kind of expert on the art of writing poetry.
      I agree with you about solitude. I sit at home with only my dog for company, writing away, with him whispering literary gems into my ear!
      All the best, Kevin

      Reply
    2. iwannabealady

      I think if you ask any professional writer whether or not they consider the structures of their paragraphs, they will say absolutely, yes. The idea is to make it look natural, as if it wasn’t a consideration. There’s a psychology behind everything, whether we are aware or not. I’ve seen my students gawk of pages of assigned reading simply because the paragraphs were so dense that it put them off. The eye likes a place to rest. Also, paragraphs aid in the transitioning of ideas, shifts in focus, etc. I don’t mean to sound teach-y. I just think that writers put in a lot of tough work and all of that work should be respected. All of the pieces make the whole, you know. (Sorry for that long-winded paragraph 🙂 )

      Reply
      1. Lucy Brazier

        I am a professional writer and I absolutely have respect for the hard work that goes into any form of writing – it’s a lot of output for often very little relative return! I was simply expressing my opinion about creative writing courses.

      2. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

        I agree with you Lucy, I also have the greatest respect for anyone who puts their heart and soul into their writing. To question the benefits of creative writing (by which I mean formalised academic study or similar), is, in no way to denergrate those who put their all into their craft.

  5. Victoria Zigler (@VictoriaZigler)

    For the most part, I agree with you. I especially agree that nothing can beat natural talent and the natural improvements that come with constantly working the writing muscles, so to speak. However, I would like to mention that there are some benifits that can be gained by attending creative writing courses, such as a better understanding of things like grammar. Having said that, anyone who enters in to such courses should do so with the understanding that there is more to writing than simply following the rules set out during a writing course/workshop, and that many writing “rules” are actually just guidelines that will help to give you a starting point to work from.

    In conclusion, I think there are some benifits to creative writing courses/workshops, but that they are no supstitute for a combination of hard work and natural talent. They also are not essential once you have a firm grasp of grammar, and the “rules” given during them should be taken as advice only.

    Reply
  6. acflory

    Disclosure: I have never attended a creative writing course of any description. I studied languages, philosophy and psychology at university. I am also old enough to have learned grammar, punctuation and spelling /at school/, long before I attended a university.

    I consider all those tools to be necessary for anyone wanting to follow the craft of ‘writer’, and if they are no longer taught properly at school, then yes, they should be taught in writing classes. But…implying that those classes can teach ‘creative’ writing is a misnomer. Anyone can be taught to use a tool, but no one can be taught to be ‘creative’. That’s like saying you can teach someone to ‘think outside the box’. I truly don’t think it’s possible.

    Reply
    1. iwannabealady

      I think, by creative, what is meant is that you will not be writing a news article which contains bare bones facts. Most of the painters that we consider Masters went to school and learned techniques which they built on and used in their own unique way. There is always room to learn. I don’t think the point is to insert creativity into someone’s mind, but to feed it, give it ideas, techniques and inspiration to keep growing.

      Reply
      1. acflory

        I totally agree aboutt the need to keep growing, but I guess I find most of my inspiration by reading brilliant fiction that pushes the boundaries of what is possible. By definition, a class on anything is a distillation of an observed pattern. It may be right, but it will never be completely objective. I’d rather discover the patterns for myself.

  7. John Fioravanti

    I’m no expert either, Kevin. I firmly believe that some people are richly creative, and some seem to write very well by nature, and some are blessed to have both gifts. I think they are gifts and can’t be taught. However, I also believe that excellent writers can learn to write better. But if you don’t have the gifts, creative writing degrees and workshops galore won’t get you there.

    Reply
    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      Thank you for your comment John. I agree wholeheartedly that excellent writers can learn to write better (it would be an arrogant person indeed who believed their was no room for improvement in their field, whether that be writing or, indeed any other sphere). Kind regards, Kevin

      Reply
    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      Thank you for your comment. One can read “good literature” without attending a creative writing course. For example people study literature at degree level or develop their love of the subject, in a non-academic setting, as a hobby. So attending a creative writing course may expose the student to great literature. There are, however other ways of gaining exposure which dont entail formal study. Best wishes, Kevin.

      Reply
  8. lilynoova

    Sure you can’t start writing as Tolstoy or any other writer if you take a course on creative writing. It’s strange to think that way. As I know, the curriculum of such courses consists of provoking tasks for everyone who wants to write creatively. They give tips on “how to..”. How to create a character, how to make him act and be real, how to make a reader sympathize the character and so on. Of course they won’t open a source for enlightenment making everyone who takes the course be the best writers ever. In writing, as in any craft, you are able to learn things, how to do and organize the process. The rest is impossible to learn or teach.

    Reply
    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      Thank you for your comment. From what you say, I think that you may have studied creative writing and your comment is based on your experience of having done so? Best wishes, Kevin

      Reply
  9. amyleebell

    Interesting. I think that perhaps they are largely a way to get people to spend money. It seems that everyone has a book inside them. That’s why you’ll find Write Your First Novel books all over the place at yard sales, flea markets, resale shops. It seems like a good idea. We see ourselves doing it, spend money on learning how, yet how many of us actually write that bestseller?

    I do, however, think they are beneficial for the serious writer. Mostly bc they guarantee you’ll actually put pen to paper, share your work with others, and get feedback.

    Regarding the great writers. Bach most likely never studies music theory. He basically invented it. People study his works to see what he did right. I see a lot usefulness in that.

    Reply
    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      Thank you for your comment and please accept my apologies for the delay in responding. This post generated comments in a manner not expected by me, hence the reason for having missed yours. You make an interesting point as regards how creative writing courses possess the potential to help to develop serious writers. Ultimately though I remain of the view that (all other things being equal) talent will out. Enter your comment here…

      Reply
  10. Sandile

    Thanks for your post. I read it with a lot of interest. I think you address a question that has been raised many times, in different contexts and by people at different levels of their writing journey. My main contention with your argument is that you imply that ‘hard slog’ and ‘trial and error’ are the main contributors to a successful writing career. Perhaps this was unintentional, but you project the image of the solitary writer, sitting in their cubby-hole, scribbling or typing away. Yes, discipline and determination are important, but many professional writers have said that a good understanding of the writing craft is just as important.

    In his book ‘On Writing’, Stephen King explains that the aspiring writer can gain such understanding through reading. “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” He goes on to say that even when one reads for pure enjoyment, there is still a learning process that is taking place.

    Stephen King belongs to that group of writers who believe that learning the craft can come through reading. The challenge I have with this approach is that when I immerse myself in a good book, I do so as an avid reader, not an aspiring writer, and I’m unable to distance myself enough to appreciate the ways in which the writer is telling their story. Yes, I can still pick up on strong stylistic qualities, or the way in which the characters have been brought to life, but a deeper appreciation of the writer’s craft comes later, once I’ve finished the book.

    So, alongside reading a lot, I’ve enrolled on short creative writing courses. I’ve completed four, all online, with UK and Australian universities and delivered at what I would describe as introductory- and intermediate-level. I believe that a good creative writing course can explain the different ‘tools’ that the writer has at their disposal. Reading can show how these tools have been used.

    There is now a plethora of creative writing courses available, and I understand how this raises suspicion. Some of these programs have become quite prestigious. The University of East Anglia’s MA in Creative Writing, for example, includes such notable writers as Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro among its alumni. I wouldn’t consider a degree-length course. I simply believe that the right course, even if it is just over a few months, can illuminate parts of the writing process.

    We can gain an understanding of the writing craft and apply grit and determination, but this is all for nothing if there is no talent. I picked up on this in the Hanif Kureishi article you kindly shared in your separate post. His assessment that most of his students have no talent seemed harsh, but I liked how he brought the focus back onto the importance of being able to tell a story, something engaging enough that the reader will stay with you until the end.

    Reply
  11. Ellen Hawley

    Having hit Like, I’m going to (mostly) disagree with you. The agreement part? There are a lot crap courses out there, and snake-oil salespeople. So do be careful, and if you sign up for a course and it doesn’t teach you anything or, worse, the tone is damaging or manipulative, quit asap.

    With that out of the way, there’s a lot a writer can get from a good course–everything from encouragement to critique to information to technique. So what if Tolstoy didn’t study writing. Writing courses didn’t exist, so that would limit him. Take a look at the alumni list of the Iowa Writers Workshop and you’ll find a Who’s Who of American writers.

    Reply
    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      Thanks for your comment. Where those great writers (who attended creative writing courses) masters of their craft as a consequence of having done so? Or would their ability have shone through without having engaged in a course of study? Or perhaps its the case that the course brought out inate talent? Best, Kevin

      Reply
  12. Sonia G Medeiros

    I agree and disagree.

    While I’m personally skeptical that majoring in creative writing will make anyone a great writer, I think any great writer has invariably spend massive amounts of time studying writing. The writer may not call it studying. Instead, s/he might call it reading…most, if not all great writers, are voracious readers. S/he likely spends extreme amounts of time thinking about writing, about voice, characters, setting, language, theme, etc. S/he also spends a large amount of time writing. Reading, especially reading works by great writers, thinking about what they wrote and how it affected you, thinking about writing, and writing are ALL forms of study. The more passion, depth and deliberation you put into it, the deeper your practice and the better your performance.

    Does this need to happen formally? Can a degree or class confer it? No to both. However, under the right circumstances, formal study and professional feedback can greatly enhance your work. One, you need experts in whatever aspect of craft you’re seeking to learn. Someone who is well versed in all the theories but isn’t a particularly good writer will have a hard time teaching you how to be a good writer. Two, you have to figure out how to apply everything you learn to yourself and practice the heck out of it.

    I also think formal lessons in writing can suck all the creativity and joy out of the process. But that only means you’re taking the wrong lessons and/or taking them from the wrong people.

    Of course, you can teach yourself. Reading, writing and analyzing the process of writing are all things that can be done on one’s own. At the same time, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. If someone out there knows what you need to know and can get that knowledge to you, I see no reason not to take advantage. I’m in agreement with The Past Due Book Review on this.

    I’m NOT a big believer in “natural” talent. Show me the writer, musician, athlete, surgeon, artist, etc. that was born that way. None of them were. A very few people might have some extraordinary ability that we can never touch. But they study and practice too.

    Mozart was born into a family of musicians. His father was a composer. From the time Mozart was 3, he was made to practice 3 hours a day. By the time he was 7, he had over 3,000 hours of pratice…with an expert (his father).

    Michelangelo studied with the great masters of his day. He apprenticed in their workshops, studied their techniques and works. And praticed hour upon hour over the course of years.

    How much do you think Stephen King read and wrote before he published Carrie? My bet would be hundreds of thousands of words (if not millions), representing thousands of hours of informal study.

    What looks like “natural talent” is usually the result of passion, dedication, and a tremendous amount of effective pratice.To me, this is the best thing ever. If I thought only “naturally talented” people could be great or even good writers, I’d quit right now. Instead, I believe (based on solid evidence), that talent can be grown. I might never be Shakespeare or even Stephen King but I know I can, eventually, reach pretty darn good.

    I have zero desire to get a degree in creative writing, but I have taken several writing classes by writers I admire and been all the richer for it. I’ve also poured through books on writing by Larry Brooks, Blake Snyder, Donald Maass and others. I’ve devoured countless blogs and articles on writing. I’m an avid reader in a wide variety of topics. All of that is study.

    Yet, no one, no course and no degree can make you a great writer, no matter how spectacular the teacher, class or program. Only you can do that.

    Reply
    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      Thank you for your comment. I agree with you that, “Yet, no one, no course and no degree can make you a great writer, no matter how spectacular the teacher, class or program. Only you can do that”.

      I endorse your view that reading other writers and sheer dedication can play an important role in helping to produce a competent, mediocre or even a great writer. However, in my view, the fact still remains that some people possess the ability to do certain things while others do not. However much I try to be a musican, I will, in the final analysis fail as I am tone deaf. I enjoy music, but I would be fooling myself where I to believe that hours of dedicated study will turn me into a musician, they won’t!

      So I agree with you that dedication and reading can play a part in developing the ability to write. However without that perhaps indefinable talent, all the reading and studying in the world will not a writer make.

      Thanks again for your comment.

      Reply
      1. Sonia G Medeiros

        Great discussion! I think this is a topic with a lot of angles.

        I would agree there can be certain limitations on the things we’re able to learn. I think many folks tend to see talent as something you have or you don’t. I think that’s only true in some cases and matters little in most cases. When there are impediments that can’t be overcome (and technology is improving so that many physical impediments can now be overcome: new prosthetic limbs, glasses that can help colorblind individuals see color, hearing aids that can do so much more than they used to), we may have to be content to enjoy the thing we want to enjoy whether we can learn to do it ourselves.

        I think that our passions tend to be a good guide. If we are passionate about something (being a great writer, musician, or athlete), we will find a way. But, if we’re not passionate enough to stick it out until the bitter end, that’s perfectly okay. Sometimes the road to that greatness is brutal, and you might have to shut so many other doors just to go through that one. The result isn’t worth it for everyone.

        Personally, I’m going for a shoot-for-the-moon philosophy with my writing. If I aim for great, I hope to hit good. Okay, I’m still hoping for great. 😀

  13. scribblesandscreams

    I’d always felt that a writer was something one just ‘is’ (not sure if I am) – that it was an inherent talent which couldn’t be learned, and that if one needs to attend a course, one isn’t a real writer. I still believe the inherent talent part, but lately have been pondering the worth of taught programs too.
    First off, I’ve been considering the argument that writing is like the other creative arts. One has an inbuilt gift for music, or art, or dance, but it is still necessary to learn how to employ different styles, to work on technique, to learn from the experience of others. Without the gift, the lessons are useless, but an especially talented pupil under the tutelage of a great teacher can far surpass what he might have produced on his own.
    Secondly, while writing is a solitary activity, through constant feedback and critique we are able to see our work from an outside perspective, which is of course how it’s designed to be read. This allows us to work on flaws we might never realise were there if left to our own devices.
    Third, if a person is planning to make a career out of writing, a certain amount of practice in writing to deadlines, and in writing to other people’s specifications can only be a good thing. To learn these skills in a safe environment could be very beneficial later when the author’s financial security might depend on them.
    My last view is that studying on a course adds a certain competitive element to what’s going on. It bursts that bubble we have around us when we’re writing alone at home. We are pitted against our peers, which can be extremely motivating.

    Sorry if any of this has already been covered in other people’s comments – I didn’t read through everything, this just caught my eye while browsing.

    Reply

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