Monday, 16 May 2011
Can Creative Writing be taught? What do you think? The question has been knocking around in the public arena ever since the University of East Anglia set up its course, with such brilliant alumni as Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro, and no doubt the question was debated in a quieter way long before that.
It does sound like a contradiction. Creativity is personal; it can be inspired (think Mozart, Shakespeare) a connection with the subconscious on a deep level, an outpouring of... of... I'm struggling to define 'creativity'. Yet I’ve agreed to teach Creative Writing for a whole week in France.
Before I put anyone off joining us for a week in France at a wonderful venue with fantastic food and local wines, I should add that this won't be my first venture into teaching Creative Writing. I run successful workshops for the Society of Authors, at Get Writing hosted by the University of Herts, and for a few smaller outfits. So far the experience has proved challenging and great fun.
The name 'Creative Writing' is useful as a label because everyone has a clear idea of what Creative Writing is. But at the same time the title is misleading because creativity isn't a skill that can be acquired through training or learning of formulae, although it can be nurtured and facilitated.
What then is the value of Creative Writing classes? The answer is that for most of us it takes more than creativity to turn ideas into a book. Character building, plot development, structure, pace, tension - all the essential elements that make up an engaging narrative, all these are skills that can be acquired and honed, and this craft of writing can be taught.
Perhaps ‘Creative Writing Classes’ is a bit of a misnomer. But ‘Crafty Writing Classes’ doesn’t have quite the same ring, does it?